Orange County companies--especially those owned by women or members of minorities, or trying to convert from defense-related products to consumer goods--are about to get some help selling their products overseas.
The World Trade Center Assn. of Orange County said Wednesday that it is sharing a $2.6-million federal grant with four other agencies that will allow it to expand services to companies that want to start exporting.
"They will seek out firms that are interested in getting into exporting, since exports equal jobs, and counsel them," said Steve Morrison, western director of the U.S. Department of Commerce's domestic and foreign commercial services in Los Angeles.
"The goal is to get people into new markets," said Morrison, who is helping to oversee the program.
Orange County's share of the grant, called LA Trade, will be about $500,000. That money is to be spread over the 2 1/2-year life of the grant.
The money will be used to hire three workers at the trade association's Irvine offices, bringing its staff to 10, said agency President Donald A. Miller. It will also help to create a central computerized database for trade leads, market research and other information from three existing databases held by the Commerce Department, state Department of Trade and Commerce and the World Trade Center.
"It combines this into one easily accessible system set up through the Internet," the international computer system, Miller said.
Special emphasis will be put on finding firms that are minority- or woman-owned, he said, or are trying to convert from military to commercial markets. The program's goal is to see 400 export transactions with a minimum value of $20,000 that would not have occurred otherwise.
"The real job creation in California is in international trade," Morrison said. "Defense firms, having state-of-the-art technology, products and services . . . tend to have some of the most exportable products."
Morrison predicted that, once companies complete their first export deals, they will hunger for more. That, in turn, will lead to more deals and more jobs for California workers, he said.
The grant was announced by Commerce Secretary Ron Brown on a Southland visit two weeks ago. Miller said he expects to have the new employees hired within two months and the enhanced computer database ready in three months.
The program is a joint effort by the Commerce Department, World Trade Center Assn. of Orange County, Greater Los Angeles World Trade Center Assn. in Long Beach, Central Coast World Trade Center Assn. in Oxnard and Inland Empire Economic Partnership in Ontario. Each of the participants sharing the grant funds will have access to the computer database.
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Orange County World Trade Center Assn. at a Glance * Founded: 1976 * Purpose: Helps local companies enter international markets. One of 280 worldwide affiliates of the New York World Trade Center. * President: Donald A. Miller * Location: Irvine * Employees: Seven * Activities: Conducts market research, seminars and consultations. Networks between buyers and sellers here and overseas.
Source: Orange County World Trade Center Assn.; Researched by JANICE L. JONES / Los Angeles Times