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FEATURE: 'Business-to-Business Speed-Dating': Investing in International Trade

Friday, May 27, 2016

Business-to-business speed-dating. That’s how Rock Nelson, director of the South Dakota International Trade Center, in Sioux Falls, S.D., describes his participation in Centrallia, a three-day business forum event in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada that attracts close to 700 people from 30 countries.

The opportunity to attend global business-to-business forums in hopes of expanding South Dakota’s footprint is something Nelson enjoys. Since 2010, Nelson has led the South Dakota delegation to Centrallia. This year, the delegation includes the South Dakota Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) and Department of Agriculture and the Sioux Falls Development Foundation (SFDF). Representatives from several South Dakota companies will also be in attendance, including Dakota Alert, Lankota Group, Logistics Buddy, Y2K Fluid Power and VRC Metals, as well as companies from Denver and Minneapolis.

Marvie Tschetter, president of Lankota Group in Huron is a first-time attendee. She says she’s looking forward to the doors Centrallia may open for her company. “One of the biggest things I’m interested in is expanding our presence in the Canadian market,” Tschetter said. “In order to do that, it helps to have an advocate like Rock who can connect us with the right people so we can take that next step into the international market.”Marvie-Tschetter.jpg

Tschetter’s business, Lankota Group, specializes in aftermarket ag products used in harvest equipment.

Conducting international business isn’t new to Nelson. In 1990, he started his own paper recycling business even though he didn’t know a thing about it. “I sold my products via semi-truck and railcar to 26 U.S. paper recycling mills and later began exporting recyclable paper to Canada, Mexico, Taiwan, Japan, Korea and China. In 1997, I sold my business to a company in Milwaukee,” he said.

“In 1999, the Sioux Falls Development Foundation was looking for someone to work closely with U.S. Customs as a promoter of the South Dakota Port of Entry. I applied and got the job and began learning about U.S. Customs and importing,” Nelson recalled. “I had experience in exporting thanks to my recycling business, so it turned into a natural fit for me.”

Nelson said part of his goal is to help companies understand the international trade arena. “It’s a lot more complex than slapping a sticker on a box and saying ‘come get it boys, this is going to Belgium.’ I also host dignitaries from around the world and organize and moderate several day-long international trade seminars annually featuring international trade specialists from across the U.S. It’s a very rewarding job,” he said.

“I think people like doing business in South Dakota because of our neighborhood-mentality. We take pride in our work—we want to do a good job so we work hard. We secure business with handshakes and keep honest and true to our roots, and I think that’s what makes us a good business partner,” Tschetter said.

Nelson couldn’t agree more.

For more information about Centrallia, visit For more information about the South Dakota International Trade Center, visit and

Editor’s note: The ITC came out of President Barak Obama’s National Export Initiative in 2010, where the goal was to remove trade barriers and challenges that businesses and farmers faced as they attempted to enter the international trade market.

“The Obama Administration basically asked all Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) and Small Business Administration offices (SBAs) across the nation to get on board with his initiative, essentially saying if there wasn’t an international trade center already established within the state, to create one,” Nelson said. “In my position as director of International Marketing, which was funded by the SFDF and Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce, I was already doing that.”

The GOED, SBA, SBDC, SFDF, and Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce, pooled their resources to create what today is known as the South Dakota International Trade Center.



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