Berkshire firms get help exporting products at Pittsfield forum


PITTSFIELD -- Josh Levine is the president of the only American manufacturer of compression arm sleeves worn by women who contract lymphedema after receiving treatment for breast cancer.

He recently moved his company, LympheDIVAs, from Philadelphia to Pittsfield 18 months ago. He has only seven employees, but is interested in further expanding his firm's operations overseas.

"It's nice to know that there is help out there from the government to help me as an American manufacturer," Levine said.

On Tuesday, Levine was one of several local business owners who attended an Export Forum at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. Sponsored by U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal and several state and local business organizations, the session featured representatives of several trade-based organizations, including the U.S. Department of Commerce and MassDevelopment, who gave an overview of programs they offer to help companies that are interested in exporting goods.

A second panel of business executives, which included Levine, and representatives of General Dynamics, Sabic Innovative Plastics, Onyx Paper, Interprint Inc., and Ray Murray Inc., shared some of their experiences exporting goods to other countries.

A total of 64 people attended the forum, according to Berkshire Chamber of Commerce President Michael Supranowicz. Twenty-seven Berkshire companies were represented, he said.

Neal, who is a member of the House's Ways and Means Committee, said the best part of the American economy last year was in exports, which reached $16 trillion during the first 12 months of 2012, a $76.5 billion increase from the same time period in 2011.

Massachusetts businesses exported $27 billion in goods and service last year. Pittsfield firms, meanwhile, exported $477 million in goods and services in 2011, he said, up from $410 million in 2010.

"Ninety-five percent of the world's population lives outside the United States," Neal said. "The world is building a consumer class. It's happening everywhere. If we want to grow our economy and lift the wage of the American people, and remain competitive in this economy, we need to reach beyond our borders and sell our products outside the U.S."

Supranowicz, who is also the COO of 1Berkshire, said both that organization and the Chamber were interested in bringing such an event to Pittsfield because technology had made the international market reachable for many local firms.

"The advent of the computer and Skype, the way you can meet people online, it makes sense to look outside of our typical boundaries for new opportunities," he said.


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