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PAY-OFF: Brad George found the business relationships he made with fellow delegates effectively paid the costs of the AmCham trade mission. Photo: Grant Currall

AmCham on a mission for business

WESTERN Australian companies servicing the oil and gas sector have returned from a recent trade mission to the US with diaries full of new contacts and a fresh perspective on the value of organised business trips.

While most companies recognise the potential for positive outcomes from an international exchange of products, services, skills and ideas, experienced operators believe many fail to maximise the value of these overseas missions.

To facilitate better engagement for local companies overseas, the American Chamber of Commerce in Australia has organised trade missions in the oil and gas industry for the past 11 years.

AmCham general manager WA, Penelope Williamson, returned from her latest trade mission last month - having taken a delegation of representatives from 30 Australian companies to Houston for the annual Offshore Technology Conference, the world's largest oil and gas industry offshore production conference.

Ms Williamson acknowledges that companies spend big money to join her, upwards of $10,000 per person, and they want to see a return on that investment.

"I hate it when I hear Aussies have gone over on their own and they're not part of our delegation because it costs them the same but they don't have the same networking opportunities," Ms Williamson told WA Business News.

"Whereas when they go as part of the delegation you get the networking from the 30 companies from around Australia that go, plus you get the meetings, functions and you get the flexibility where you can stay on at the US, and we then go back through London."

One member of the delegation, Go Marine Group general manager for crewing, Brad George, said the experience was well worth it, especially the relationships he made with other members of the travelling group.

"It was in effect having the White Pages in front of you but having the right pages pop up," he said.

"We made a number of contacts with Australian-based companies that operate in the same periphery as we do, and didn't realise we had synergies with, that we've subsequently discovered by sitting down and having a chat.

"The trip paid for itself out of one arrangement that's already been made, so it was well worth doing."

Southern Cross Electrical Engineering general manager business development, Gerard Moody, also found bonding with the travelling party during the flights and hotel stays a valuable experience, both personally and professionally.

"One of the guys from Brisbane had worked in the Middle East for 20 years and he was sharing knowledge about those markets," Mr Moody said.

"And some of our customers were on the trip - Ausclad and Clough - so we got introduced to their directors and senior people on the trip at the same time.

"Southern Cross has a long history of exporting services in the mineral sector, gold and copper particularly to Africa and the Americas on large construction projects, so the trip was really about supporting and leveraging our experience in minerals into the LNG and oil and gas sectors."

AmCham is currently organising trade missions to Aberdeen for Offshore Europe in September and a defence-related trade mission to the US in October.

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