By: Jill Rehkopf Smith
June 24, 2009
Irl Davis, a Raleigh Hills resident whose Oregon roots stretch back to a Tygh Valley homestead in the 1870s, is one of 15 worldwide representatives of the Investment Support and Promotion Agency of the Republic of Turkey’s Prime Ministry. His territory covers 11 western states.
Davis, 60, majored in electrical engineering technology at the Oregon Institute of Technology in Klamath Falls. In 1984 he began manufacturing electronic components in China, selling them to 17 different countries. In 2002 he started Global One, a consulting firm that helps small and mid-sized businesses expand into emerging markets overseas.
He made his first close connection with Turkey through a Turkish employee at one of his Chinese plants. He landed his job with the prime ministry after setting up a trade mission to Turkey for Washington state.
Americans, in general, have been updating their image of Turkey since April, when President Barack Obama visited the predominantly Muslim country and highlighted it as a model secular democracy.
Until then, Davis said, many people free-associated Turkey with “camels and veils.”
The Oregonian recently sat down with Davis at his home in Raleigh Hills. His comments have been edited for length and clarity:
How did Obama’s visit to Turkey affect your work?
Obama has opened a lot of doors — and not just one way either. In the last few months, we’ve had more activity out of that region. All these people from these different countries in the Middle East are extremely optimistic.
Your website describes Turkey as strategic. Why more so than other countries?
It always has been strategic. Think about the Silk Road and why it’s there, why Istanbul is there in the first place. It’s a bridge between east and west. You have over a billion customers within a couple hour flight. In Istanbul they have a Microsoft office that takes care of 80 countries.
Is it a problem that Turkey is not yet in the European Union?
Turkey is given all the rights of the European Union but is still not a full-fledged member. Your tariffs are very attractive…Foreign businesses are utilizing the free-trade zones in Turkey. Within these zones, foreign companies can take advantage of reduced or no tariffs. Setting up a remote factory within these zones allows the company to import raw goods to this location, manufacture the finished product and then export it to various countries in the EU without tariffs.
Isn’t this a bad time to be expanding overseas, in the middle of a recession?
(In a recession) you can do one of two things. You can cut back expenses or you can increase revenue. It’s time to look at places where we can increase our revenue. People are saying, ‘Maybe I should … take our product and sell it from Turkey into these areas and maybe even then tap into the 70 million consumers already in Turkey because they’re young, they’re progressive.
Can you describe some of the cultural differences that you help businesses navigate?
A lot has to do with styles of negotiation. Northern Turkey would be more the western European style of negotiating: Let’s cooperate together, let’s figure out what’s the best thing to do as a team. Down south would be more (bargaining style): They start at 4 and you start at 1. In China, there’s winners and losers … For an American, knowing that right up front, it’s up to us to make it look like (China wins). You have to frame the negotiation ‘This is good for China’ before you even get into it.