Inland Empire businesses tap into global trade at conference held at San Bernardino airport

(Blog Note: Yesterday, the Inland Empire Center for International Trade Development was in attendance at the Inland Empire World Trade Conference at the San Bernardino International Airport in San Bernardino.  The photo is ours, but the article below was originally printed in the May 18, 2017, edition of the San Bernardino Sun.  Click here to To see the original article online.)


By Neil Nisperos,  Inland Valley Daily Bulletin @ReporterNeil on Twitter


SAN BERNARDINO » Companies that import and export goods to and from the Inland Empire gathered Wednesday at San Bernardino International Airport to hear experts talk about the latest trends, including potential changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement and recent developments for international trade.

It was the first time the Inland Empire World Trade Conference, now in its 23rd year, was hosted in San Bernardino. Organizers said they wanted to highlight the vast resources of the region, including the airport itself; showcase the ability of the Inland Empire logistics infrastructure to handle cargo from the ports; and promote the region as atrade hub with Latin America and Asia.


“We were asked by the U.S. Commercial Service and the California Inland Empire District Export Council to be hosts, and I couldn’t be more honored to invite our industry here locally because it’s a little known fact that we have thousands and thousands of businesses that are actively engaged in global commerce right here in the Inland Empire,” said Michael Burrows, executive director of the San Bernardino International Airport Authority and the Inland Valley Development Agency, the local joint powers authority overseeing economic development at and surrounding the airport.


Much of the business today at the San Bernardino airport is in private business jet travel as well as maintenance and repair, not only for domestic companies but also international companies, Burrows said.

At the conference, trade representatives from a number of foreign countries were on hand to meet with business representatives who listened to experts talk about innovation, cybersecurity, exporting, trade zones and financing international business, among other topics.


Manoj Patel, principal of Riverside-based consulting firm M3P International Ltd. and SustainableTech LLC, was among a number of executives who learned about new trends from inside a 767 jet plane parked near the airport’s terminal, where other discussions were taking place. SustainableTech makes a de-greasing product for major industry, and China represents a huge market for the company, Patel said.


“Export knowledge is one thing, but more importantly is the knowledge you can garner from individuals who have been there, done that,” Patel said. “That makes a big difference.”


Ovi Popescu, a commissioner with the San Bernardino International Airport Authority, highlighted the airport’s offering.

“What’s unique about our airport is we have customs, we have international, modern facilities and we’re slowly starting to get that type of traffic to take advantage of those services,” Popescu said. “We’ve had some diplomatic flights from a number of countries around the world. That’s one of the reasons we have a number of consulates here from different countries who can take advantage of the customs angle, so there are plenty of opportunities.”

But partnerships and connections made at the event go beyond the airport, Popescu said.

“Ideally, we want to educate the exporters that the world is huge and they can sell their products all over the world,” Popescu added. “They don’t necessarily have to go through our airport, but at least they can make connections with the various individuals and businesses.”


Burrows emceed a talk with Salvador Behar, general director of North America for Mexico’s Ministry of Economy, which was attended by John DeVoll, president of Victorville-based De-Voll Rubber Manufacturing Group Inc.

“It’s important for us tounderstand that the (trade) relationship with Mexico is really important to look at,” DeVoll said. “We can’t just shut the border off and eliminate contact between ourtwo countries. This is a really big deal and we’re all impacted by it. With the rhetoric (from Washington D.C.), I think we need to have a better understanding of how importantthis is.” Behar said, “San Bernardino is growing fast. California is already the No. 1 trading partner with Mexico, and we are looking at San Bernardino as an opportunity to grow as an important export hub with Mexico.”

Conference attendees mingle at the San Bernardino International Airport after attending a session at the Inland Empire World Trade Conference on Wednesday.

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