Lakes area exports often walk and talk and seat themselves on outgoing flights.
In addition to manufactured parts, exporting expertise has people moving to all parts of the globe. Bob Skomars, a trainer at Universal Pensions Inc. based in Baxter, said the work can mean leaving on Monday for two days in one city, moving to another city by Wednesday and then coming home Friday.
The 14-year training veteran is always aware that he represents more than 400 people at UPI whenever he enters a room from New York to Nebraska to Los Angeles.
"You can't take that lightly," Skomars said.
He said people in Fleet Farm in grubby clothes on Saturday may have been representing their company across the nation during the week.
Skomars, who grew up in Minneapolis and has lived in the area for 20 years, said he noticed some people who were raised here have a burning desire to get out. It is from UPI that he has the opportunity to be at the top of the World Trade Center or to see a Broadway play in New York City -- all without regularly fighting metro traffic jams and crowds.
"You can kind of have the best of both worlds -- live here and have national exposure."
Diane Beal, owner of the Brainerd-based consulting company Quality Breakthroughs, also travels across the U.S. and into Canada. She said there are a number of people who have moved from the Twin Cities to Brainerd and work in the consulting field.
And she said area young people may think they need to relocate in order to get opportunities that exist in their own backyard. "There are lots of opportunities," Beal said.
Brainerd and Minnesota's geographic location also has been an asset.
"Being in the center you can work with people on both coasts and really not have to stretch that far," Beal said, noting time zone differences between New York and California. "We've actually thought of moving to West Coast for winter months, but it is too far away and you spend so much time traveling."
Not solely relegated to fly-over land, the land of 10,000 lakes is a place people recognize.
"A lot of people are familiar with the area because they vacation there, but a lot of times I say 'I'm from Minnesota' -- they think Minneapolis."
Quality Breakthroughs started in business in July 1990. Beal grew up in the area. She returned as an adult after a 20-year absence, bringing a background in information systems. She expects the consulting business growth will continue.
Meetings are conducted via the Internet. E-mail is used to keep in touch. And the Brainerd-Crow Wing County Regional Airport provides local access for traveling consultants and the airport offers nearby, free parking. "I've had very good luck flying out of Brainerd," Beal said.
About 60 percent of Quality Breakthrough's work is outside the immediate region. Seven years ago that number was 90 percent. Beal said the change indicates a greater knowledge of what area companies have to offer.
"There are a lot more things going on in our area that people realize," Beal said. "People are busy and so they don't blow their own horn and you don't know they are there."
On return flights, Skomars said he is always amazed at the number of people -- many of them strangers to the community -- who are coming to Brainerd.
UPI is joined by a number of area companies that send people and knowledge to distant locations. Consultants are joined by technicians in leaving the area for national and international destinations. Riverwood International in Crosby transports technicians to install or service beverage packing machines they export across the globe.
Other consultants doing business across the globe include Paul Cibuzar Consulting, Nisswa, and public relations and advertising firms like Russell and Herder.
Based in Brainerd and with offices in St. Paul, Duluth and St. Cloud, Russell and Herder advertising and public relations firm's clients include corporate giants like Betty Crocker, Potlatch and 3M.
Russell and Herder recently hosted Japanese guests at their fish house on Gull Lake. The firm has a partnership with Inter-Image in Japan and is currently marketing Marvin Windows there. Another partnership has the firm working in Finland. Other international work includes the United Kingdom. Geoff Klaverkamp, senior public relations specialist at Russell and Herder, spent much of his life in Japan before joining the firm in its Brainerd office.
"You have to really work hard at maintaining relationships on an almost weekly or daily basis," Klaverkamp said. "And once a year meet face to face with key partners or key customers."
Language and cultural differences require constant confirmation and detailed explanation that can almost seem tedious and redundant, Klaverkamp said.
"If you put in the time though the results can be quite rewarding," he said, adding Japan, which is roughly half the population of the United States, has about the same number of retail stores.
"Visualize every retail store in the U.S. shoved into half of California and that is Japan," Klaverkamp said.
Having a local partner in the country that businesses are working in can be a large advantage to understanding how best to market services or products. Klaverkamp said speaking the language is a huge plus but is only part of communication efforts as issues covered in minutes between American companies may take half an hour, which can require lots of patience. Reading about international countries and visiting them are other building blocks.
"The payoff is there if you make the effort," Klaverkamp said.
Gaining knowledge about differences in culture and business etiquette is a challenge. But the work is opening doors here as well.
For students who want international or national experience in business, UPI's Skomars said: "You can have those dreams right here."
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.