Creating the ultimate database for N.J. exporters

Steltzer hoping to connect companies with ExportJERSEY

Meg Fry//July 13, 2015//

Creating the ultimate database for N.J. exporters

Steltzer hoping to connect companies with ExportJERSEY

Meg Fry//July 13, 2015//

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Ben Steltzer knows what it means to roll up one’s sleeves and make things happen in the Garden State — with or without support from others.

While working for the last four years as a business relationship and international trade manager for the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce in Trenton, Steltzer was approached by the Consulate General of Canada.

“He wanted to bring six Canadian corporations to New Jersey,” Steltzer said. “So I spent four months, nights and weekends, finding over 70 New Jersey companies that would sell the necessary exports to the Canadians.”

It shouldn’t have taken him that long, Steltzer said, but the available databases of exporters were fragmented and out of date.

“We needed a directory that would list the 22,000 exporters in Jersey under one roof,” he said.

So Steltzer began to mention this idea to everyone he worked and networked with.

“Nobody thought it was a bad idea, but nobody moved forward with it,” Steltzer said.

He simply couldn’t wait.

Steltzer left his position with the chamber in March in order to properly launch ExportJERSEY himself in April.

“Exports in New Jersey are extremely important, but extremely weak in general,” he said. “Even if there is an (opportunistic) event in which exporters can sell, nobody has a complete database in which to invite them.

“It’s vital to create one complete directory listing New Jersey’s exporters as a resource for foreign governments, foreign and domestic companies and the U.S. Department of Commerce.”

ExportJERSEY, though supported by dedicated New Jersey businesses, entrepreneurs and government entities via membership fees, is a completely free resource to anyone searching for New Jersey exporters.

That alone has caught the attention of many high-profile organizations within the state.

“Ben is very passionate about ExportJERSEY,” said George Saives, senior consultant of logistics and transportation for the New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program. “It interested me to see that there was an organization that wasn’t a government-run agency, or state-funded — it was simply in the middle trying to connect all these various groups together.

“It was in our best interest to come up with a one-year affiliate membership.”

Choose New Jersey and the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce felt the same way, with the New Jersey Business & Industry Association and Santander Bank in line to follow suit.

Steltzer knows he’s in for the long haul: When he first presented ExportJERSEY to the state’s Business Action Center and the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, he anticipated there would be at least 11 phases to complete.

He’s in Phase Two.

“There are 135 chambers and associations in New Jersey, so there’s always someone to brand and affiliate with,” Steltzer said. “I want to fill the database, promote it and then center it globally.”

Then, Steltzer hopes to find strength in numbers.

“If we get enough exporters under the roof, we can become our own voice and perhaps influence the state government into allocating funds for exports,” he said.

Firstly and most importantly, however, is educating the state on everything made in New Jersey.

“The ultimate goal is to brand New Jersey and enhance our global footprint,” he said. “But sometimes, we don’t even know what’s in our own backyard.”

E-mail to: [email protected]
On Twitter: @megfry3

The biz in brief

Name: ExportJERSEY
Headquarters: Belmar
Founder: Ben Steltzer, president
Founded: April 2015
Employees: 1
One more thing: Steltzer believes New Jersey has a lot to learn from Pennsylvania when it comes to exports. For example, Pennsylvania has 17 global offices dedicated to exports; New Jersey has zero.