"It's the candy store of technology."
That's how Erik C. Meyer, president of Interconsult, an international business management firm based in Salt Lake City, describes the industrial fair held recently in Hanover, West Germany.It is 15 times larger than any industrial fair held in the United States, but Utah's presence was almost non-existent, much to Meyer's chagrin. Meyer said he has tried for six years to convince Utah economic development officials they should have some space in Hanover, but so far has been rebuffed.
Meyer, who travels all over the world in his business consulting job, said the U.S. Department of Commerce had a booth and Autosimulations Inc., the Bountiful-based company producing computer software programs for materials handling systems, was represented there.
But in an area called Location USA, 45 states and counties had booths, but Utah was conspicuously absent, Meyer said. With 500,000 people attending the fair and 6,000 exhibitors showing their wares, it's a good chance to develop foreign markets for products, he said.
Meyer said that last year AGV Technologies Inc. had a display in Hanover, but the materials handling company was purchased last year by a German conglomerate.
In addition to displaying products, Meyer said the Hanover fair gives exhibitors a chance to see what their competition is doing.
Meyer said the Hanover fair became so big that computer-related companies held their fair two weeks earlier than the regular fair. That made some computer companies mad because their products often are used in connection other industrialized products and they wanted to explain them.
The Japanese were very visible at the fair, Meyer said, which means they are a big force in the international economy. He said much emphasis has been placed on selling to and buying from the Japanese, but he said American companies should also concentrate on the western European market, since it consists of 320 million people.
"The Japanese have been successful in new technology, but so have the western Europeans," Meyer said.
The theme of the fair centered on the fact that in 1992 there will be a unified market area in western Europe. Had Utah companies displayed their products at Hanover they would have had an excellent opportunity to establish themselves for the changes of 1992, Meyer said.
Although it's expensive to ship some products for display in Hanover, Meyer believes it is worth it. In the early 1980s he took a local company and its low-tech product into Asian and European markets and in the first year it had $1.5 million in sales.
Meyer thinks it's a shame more American companies don't try to peddle their wares abroad and help reduce the trade deficit. Meyer said language barriers, cultural differences, unknown economic and business situations, strange rules and regulations and generally a fear of the unknown are the main reasons many companies are content to sell their products in the United States.
But before anyone plunges headlong into the world marketplace, Meyer suggests people have an open mind and be willing to work under different conditions, understand world economics and cultures, travel in the beginning to get your markets established and be able to get along with people from different cultures.