Katherine Lockhart, senior vice president of Bank of America Business Banking Market Executive for Western Carolinas, answers a few questions about small to mid-size international business growth in the Triad.North State Journal: Tell us a bit about yourself, how you got involved in this sector and what you do now?Lockhart: I’ve been in commercial banking for 25 years. I came here six years ago from Detroit. During my time in Detroit, I was heavily involved with international business. Working with importers, exporters and all the logistics that came with that, you really got into some niche imports.My team works with companies with $5-50 million in annual revenue. We help them with everything from A to Z. We do make loans for working capital, real estate and machinery and we also help them with trade lines for exporting.It’s really interesting how we take electronic payments. We can make cross-border currency ACH payments in 29 currencies. The big deal is a client is buying parts from China, we can make that payment in the local currency and that trade is done in the U.S. wiring foreign currency opposed to sending American dollars. This has really changed the landscape for some of our clients. We had a client last year who did custom golf carts. We put her on cross boarder payments to China, and by October she shared with us we had saved her over $100,000.We help clients with commodity hedging. If you’re thinking about importing from overseas, mainly with lumber-related, anything commodities-related (copper, etc.), you’re at the mercy of what the currency is worth the day you entered the contract vs. the day you make payment. We can help clients with F/X hedging in more than 140 currencies in 200 countries. If we don’t have the answer, somebody does; we have extensive global partners that we can tap into.What is Bank of America’s involvement in this? From a corporate perspective, what are you witnessing?We’re active participants in helping make connections for our clients and introducing them to people in countries that help build foreign presence. It could be trade specialists, translators … if there’s a service that you need an expert from an international perspective, we have access to that expertise.We’re also seeing an increase in logistics: how do you move products from port to rail to truck? International logistics is a robust and complex business. What do you do if your product gets held up in customs? What’s changed as far as regulations?Can you talk a bit about the rise in small to mid-size companies doing business globally?In the Triad, Bank of America held a conference ‘Going Globally,’ we work with large textile companies. What they’re manufacturing isn’t just distributed throughout the U.S. but exported as well. We were seeing a large percentage of containers coming into the Triad from oversees and then going back empty. The greater Triad became a huge exporter, and eastern Carolina is now a big exporter of sweet potatoes. You can now go to a pub in London and see sweet potatoes on the menu that came from North Carolina.When you look at top countries with ties to the Triad, it’s Germany, United Kingdom, Japan, France and Italy. Most importantly, it’sGuilford and Forsyth counties. Guilford County has 250 foreign-owned and Forsyth County around 350 foreign-owned companies. Why North Carolina for international business?There are so many reasons. North Carolina has been positioning itself, and the state has done such a great job for this growth. There’s a long history here. You have access to five ports, as well as a great inland port, strong infrastructure, and connectivity to resources including financial and higher education. … You also have the international airport, and then a rail system that supports the ports and the inland port. There’s a continued collaboration between government, transportation and industry.
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