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Finding Information on Wisconsin Businesses Dealing with French-Speaking Countries

  By Monica Sweetman
University of Wisconsin--Green Bay

Are you looking to expand your business to a French-speaking country? Or maybe you are looking for information on what businesses in your area have companies in these countries. If so, the following information could be useful. It gives my personal account of my research process, the sources I used, and the information I found on this subject.

I was interested in knowing what businesses in the state of Wisconsin had operations in a French-speaking country. I was fortunate enough to have a couple of leads prior to beginning my research but for those who don't have any leads, the little information I did find could give you a starting point. I really didn't know where to begin so I figured the one place that had information on just about anything was the Internet. This was the first source I tried. I spent several hours trying many different keyword searches but came up with very little. The one successful source I found was the homepage for the Wisconsin World Trade Center. It explains what the trade center is about and it also lists its members.

The Wisconsin World Trade Center is an information and networking source. They provide services, programs, and information for businesses to help expand their place in the international market. They provide market research counseling and referrals as well as hold business language forums and conferences. On their website, you can find links to newspaper and magazine articles related to business news from around the world. The page about Wisconsin gives information regarding the Trade Center and there is a list of its members. A link to all the Trade Centers around the world is also available for you from their website.

I called the Trade Center (414-274-3840), located in downtown Milwaukee, and found out that they have a small library with books that might also have helpful information for those who want to know more about local businesses abroad. The gentleman I spoke to recommended I look for two books at a local library. One of the books is titled the 1997 Classification Directory of Wisconsin Manufacturers (printed by Worzalla Publishing Company; Stevens Point, WI) and the other called Wisconsin Exporters. Both of these books are published by Wisconsin Manufacturers of Commerce and can be found at the Trade Center library.

Using this lead, I went to the public library to look for these books. The library only had one of them - the 1997 Classification Directory of Wisconsin Manufacturers. This book would be very useful to anyone looking for Wisconsin businesses who have firms in french-speaking countries. It could also be helpful to anyone looking for employment who wants to know what companies do business in a certain region of the world.

The book is broken down into six different sections. Each section gives a different way of looking for information on businesses in the state of Wisconsin. To use the first section of the book, all you need to know is the name of the company and they are listed in alphabetical order in the section. Another section has an alphabetized listing of Wisconsin cities and within this listing, the businesses are also alphabetized. In this section, which is the largest one in the book, a person could find information on each business like what year it was founded and what products they produce.

The section of the book that I spent the most time looking at was one that tells what Wisconsin businesses are in foreign countries. The countries are listed in alphabetical order followed by a list of cities within each country. The businesses are found under what city they are located in. Then it gives the company name and the city in Wisconsin where the business is located.

A fourth section can inform a person about out-of-state or foreign companies who own businesses or divisions of a company located in the state of Wisconsin. The kinds of products a company produces can be found in the fifth section of the book. The companies are categorized by the products they produce. If they make more than one kind of product, the company would be listed under each category. The last section is a listing of "SIC" codes which are used to classify industries.

One other resource that I found at my local library was the Wisconsin International Trade Handbook and Resource Directory (updated in September 1994; published by Wisconsin Department of Development, Bureau of International Development; Madison, WI). This book gives information on exporting as well as different kinds of state businesses who deal with foreign companies. As an example, if you are looking for a lawyer who specializes in international law, you would turn to the pages and lawyers. There you would find information on the different firms and individuals in Wisconsin who could help you. Some of the information listed is their address, telephone number, and what services they provide. On some of these company profiles, it also lists what area of the world they specialize in and/or what languages they speak. This book could be help for anyone in business, not just those who are looking to work with french-speaking countries. Also at the beginning of the book, there is letter written by Gov. Tommy Thompson. In the letter, a phone number is given for an Export Hotline (800- XPORTWI) for the Department of Development. They will answer your questions relating to international markets or with business assistance.

Any of the information above could be used for many reasons. The Internet is an easy way for businesses and individuals to search many topics in a rather short period of time. It is a faster reference than the library and also usually more convenient. A person could find information that leads them to other sources, such as in my case. This is a way to expand your research options and personal contacts. I found the Classification Directory of Wisconsin Manufacturers to be a very good source for personal and educational reasons. As I stated before, the information in the book could turn into a way for a person looking for employment with an international business to find a company in their area or a company who deals in their field of expertise. For educational purposes, the book could be used by students who are possibly looking to do a research paper or essay on local international businesses. They can find the name of a company in their city and maybe call to set up an interview to get information about the companies functions and international relations.

These are just a few ways I can suggest to start your own search. The beginning information you find could lead you to other helpful sources. You should follow up on information given to you by others - no matter how small or unimportant it may seem. Don't be afraid to make phone calls and ask questions about information you are unsure of or information you want to know about a certain business. In the end, you should be satisfied with the results of your search and have information that can help both you and your business.


Wisconsin's French Connections
January 27, 1998
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