There was a time not too long ago when the World Trade Center Pittsburgh would introduce local environmental services company owners to business and government officials in Asia and South America, then walk away. Not anymore.
Now, this non-profit organization has taken global match-making to new heights, thanks to a program funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce. The program, called the Market Development Cooperator Program, is aimed specifically at local environmental services companies that deal with everything from municipal solid waste and waste water treatment services to manufacturing pollution control and residual waste management. The goal, says Mame Bradley, president of the World Trade Center Pittsburgh, is to close business deals, particularly in China and Brazil, for local and other domestic service providers.
Its a competitive program designed to find ways to get U.S. companies into environmental projects overseas, Bradley says. And the opportunities are significant.
But its not traditional match-making, she says. As part of the program, the World Trade Center hired global environmental consulting veteran Wayne DiBartola, who also had been an active board member of the Trade Center at one time, to run the program for the center. For the past three years, he has been establishing relationships with business and government officials in both Brazil and China and, ultimately, scouring those countries for environmental services opportunities.
But he also takes the relationship-building a step further. As he moves forward with specific project opportunities, he also helps find overseas partners for the local companies, along with international banking resources that would help finance any projects.
Stateside, DiBartola continues to amass a database of local and other domestic companies interested in exporting their services. The database includes a statement of qualifications, capabilities, work experience and other qualifying information. Of the 100-pus companies currently in the database, at least half represent the Pittsburgh region, with the rest from other parts of the United States, per the program agreement with the Department of Commerce.
As DiBartola finds particular opportunities, he then matches the need with the capabilities of various companies in the database and creates partnering teams that then put together joint proposals to complete a particular project. The World Trade Center does this for free, Bradley says, although participating companies must agree to pay the center a 1 percent commission of sorts on any successful contracts.
What the government is funding us to do is stay much more involved in these projects, putting together the infrastructure and identifying partners and sources of financing, Bradley says. I think weve taken this model further than anyone in the U.S.
So far, the program hasnt yet successfully closed any deals for companies, but Bradley says they do have several proposals out there on specific projects in China. As for Brazil, she says the program lost its momentum there last year briefly with the devaluation of the real. But DiBartola recently has identified some good projects there.
Projects in which the center has submitted proposals so far include industrial waste water treatment projects in Brazil, municipal solid waste projects in China and Brazil, and an ultra-clean coal facility in China. However, as Bradley points out, The environmental industry is very broad.
Bradley acknowledges that ramping up the program has taken a long time but says that relationship building with overseas officials is a lengthy process that should soon pay off.
Weve developed relationships over the years, and now were experiencing the long-term benefits of developing those relationships, Bradley says. Now I will feel real comfortable if we start closing deals. But I think were within striking distance of a few.
How to reach:The World Trade Center Pittsburgh, (412)227-3188. Its Web address is www.wtcpa.org.