Martin Cummins, chief operating officer of Rocky Hill-based Environmental Dynamics Group, was looking for opportunities to expand his business in Europe a year ago when he became aware of the European American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey and met Camille Sailer, its president.
"If she's doing this, then I want to be part of it," Cummins said. "We see great growth in Europe because of the U.S. dollar, which makes our products more affordable," adding that the design of his company's patented energy-conserving air filtration systems is beneficial in high-energy-cost Europe.
The West Windsor-based chamber was founded in 2009, but its growth has picked up since Sailer joined in 2011, actively promoting trans-Atlantic ties. It focuses on holding seminars, and while it has only about 50 members, 5,000 companies have participated in its events or received other services from the chamber, Sailer said.
Cummins said those seminars have been essential for networking and improving his understanding of trading with partners in the European Union.
"I really want to meet other companies that are trying to do business over in Europe," Cummins said, noting that pharmaceutical plants are natural customers for his company's products. "There's just hundreds and hundreds of U.S. pharmaceutical plants throughout the E.U. We think that's the next logical growth for us."
Cummins was part of a trade mission organized by the chamber that visited E.U. headquarters in Brussels, in March. He described it as "three days like being back in college."
"We learned about the E.U. as a group, versus the individual countries," he said. "We learned what they regulate, like that the E.U. in Brussels sets all of the tariffs that all of the countries have to follow."
Cummins started the company with CEO Duke Wiser, in Princeton, in the 1990s. It now has more than 30 employees in New Jersey, as well as 30 more at a plant it owns in Ontario, in Canada.
Both Cummins and Sailer pointed out that while much attention has been paid in recent years to developing markets like China and India, Europe still represents a larger market for both American goods and for foreign direct investment in the United States.
"I just think there's an opportunity here for a lot of New Jersey businesses that don't even think about going overseas," Cummins said.
Sailer works on international business development for the biotech trade association BioNJ and other private clients, and is serving as a chamber president on a pro bono basis. She previously served as director of international trade for the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.
"As we acquire more and more momentum, we're anticipating doubling our growth by this time next year, and going forward from that," Sailer said.
The organization received a charter in 2009 from the Paris-based European-American Chamber of Commerce to serve as the New Jersey chapter. It later formed a partnership with Rutgers to launch a series of seminars focusing on different industries in Europe. In May, it began a relationship with the European Union delegation in Washington, D.C., which named the organization as its adviser in New Jersey.
The trade mission to Brussels led to the group's next seminar, which will take place Sept. 27 and focus on intellectual property laws in Europe, Sailer said.
"We learned while we were there that the E.U. is moving to an E.U.-wide patent system," she said, adding that the seminar will cover a range of issues, including what kinds of questions New Jersey companies should ask about seeking patents in Europe.
The chamber also is building ties with non-E.U. countries like Russia, Switzerland and Norway.
"When you look at the trans-Atlantic relationship, it is 54 percent of the entire world GDP," Sailer said of the combined size of the U.S. and European economies. "The trans-Atlantic ties really go beyond a few sectors."
Attorney Stephen B. Schott, a chamber member and a shareholder with Volpe Koenig who is moving to the firm's Princeton office, said the chamber has been a good outlet to learn about opportunities for New Jersey businesses. Schott practices patent law.
"It's very easy for American companies to do business with European companies, but sometimes we have a lot of questions," Schott said, adding that the two markets have many things in common: "They respect contracts; they negotiate deals in ways that are understandable to Americans. This organization helps businesses in America and businesses in Europe to connect with each other."
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