As unlikely as it may seem, we have been talking to the US Commerce Department over the past two years. Emily Vassos, who is our right and left hand when it comes to liaising with clients, went to a talk sponsored by the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects about doing business in China. The guy giving that talk was Stephan Crawford. Afterwards, they chatted about our recent project in Shanghai and Stephan visited the studio shortly thereafter. We haven’t stopped talking since then.
I don’t know about you, but the last thing that I expected was to get along with someone from our government. I certainly didn’t think that they were to be distrusted but I had an image of either an incompetent DMV attendant or an incredibly straight-laced bureaucrat:
Instead, in walked Stephan nattily attired and extraordinarily conversant in both art (full disclosure: he moonlights as a sculptor) and commerce. We got along swimmingly and over the next couple of months he helped to hook us up with US embassies in Singapore and Tokyo. To make a long story short (not my strong suit), our government wants to encourage US business overseas. Duh. And they have an impressive range of services which are particularly helpful to weird small businesses like ours. Though we’re blessed with a handful of projects around the world, we cannot put people on the ground in far-flung places. And this is where having an ally can be immensely helpful in navigating the senseless maze of Tokyo streets and the complex nuances of Japanese professional mores. With their assistance, we now have new projects in Tokyo and New Dehli.
Coda to short story: this wing of the Commerce Department is the best kept secret. You would almost begin to think that unbeknownst to you, our government also provides a full suite of social services. Am I in Canada? Switzerland. Nope, just an excellent little offshoot of the US of A.
Strangely enough, the Commerce Department seems to be as excited about us as we are with them. A steady stream of diplomats filters through our studio every couple of weeks because it’s an example of how things can work together – even considering this most absurd pairing. We love it because we get to meet people from all around the world and they love it because we are infusing capital into our SF neck of the woods.
I am perhaps the least political person that I know, but in this particular respect, I am bullish. There are limits to and faults with the system but I have been extraordinarily impressed with the people working with us. They have been smart, capable, and eager to help.
And now I take my leave to hoist the flag on this chilly Wednesday morning.