When Jamie Baisden wants to market his wares to the world, he heads to England. His destination isn’t London, but Birmingham, the country’s second largest city.
Baisden is president of Manassas Park-based QMT Associates Inc., one of the largest makers of wind chimes in the U.S. He travels to Birmingham to attend the GLEE trade show in September — which caters to the garden, pet and leisure markets — and to the Spring Fair in February, a huge home and gift show. He started his international marketing efforts in the United Kingdom because he believes the “business environment is relatively similar to the United States.”
This February, Baisden landed several new customers on his second trip to Spring Fair. “We have now worked with people in Ireland and England,” he says. “Some of our product is also in Germany.”
Spring Fair and GLEE, in fact, draw buyers from all over Europe, one of Baisden’s target markets. “I want to not only expand our show schedule in the UK but also work shows in mainland Europe as well,” he says.
To help increase his export business, Baisden joined the Virginia Economic Development Partnership’s AIM (Accessing International Markets) program. “It’s nice to have a government program that is directly helping companies keep jobs and expand here,” he says.
Because he spends most of his hours at trade shows, Baisden has little time to explore Birmingham. When he does have that option, he likes to walk around the city. “It’s a good way to see what’s really there,” he says.
Located in England’s West Midlands, Birmingham has a diverse population of more than 1 million. Popular attractions include Cadbury World, a museum featuring chocolate production, and the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, which has silver and ceramic collections as well as a large collection of paintings by a group of English painters known as the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.
Two of Baisden’s favorite areas are New Street, a shopping district, and the Arcadian, an entertainment venue with bars, restaurants and a comedy club. “It’s nice to know that these areas don’t shut down at 5 p.m. because we’re usually working until 6 p.m.,” he says.
The city’s economy
Birmingham, England, is called “the workshop of the world” because of its history as a major manufacturing center during the Industrial Revolution. Today tourism plays a large role in the city’s economy, thanks to the addition of large venues such as the National Exhibition Centre and the International Convention Centre, both part of the NEC Group, based in Birmingham. The two venues host a growing number of conferences and exhibitions. Companies with plants in Birmingham include Jaguar Cars and Cadbury Trebor Bassett, owned by the confectionary company Cadbury.
Where to eat
When he’s in Birmingham, Jamie Baisden slips over to the Arcadian and eats at Las Iguanas, known for its food from Latin countries. He also visits the Mailbox, another popular shopping area, and eats at Red Peppers, with offerings ranging from pizza and pasta to burgers and salads. Another option at the Mailbox is Strada with specialties such as risotto verdure and linguine alla pescatora. One of his favorite eateries is Bella Italia on New Street with a menu that includes seafood, pasta, steak and chicken.
Where to stay
Baisden opts to stay in a furnished apartment when he visits Birmingham. He usually finds an apartment using the Web site http://www.staybirmingham.com. “I generally stay seven to nine nights and from a business standpoint, a furnished apartment is great,” he says. “You have a place to cook something if you want to, and the apartments usually have a little more space than a hotel room.” Hotels in the city include The Bridge House Hotel, Hyatt Regency Birmingham and Marriott Birmingham.
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