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Oct. '05 Build Business: The International Development Scene: What's Hot for the A/E/C Industry?

by Randolph W. Tucker, P.E., FSMPS
October 4, 2005

Editor’s note: As a monthly contributor to, the Society for Marketing Professional Services is sponsoring Build Business. This series, written by industry experts, focuses on marketing and business development best practices to help you build business and advance your career.



The hot action for international business today can best be described as “almost everywhere.” Since that’s a rather broad market for most of us to target, let’s just focus on what appear to be the three hottest regions: Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe.


Southeast Asia


The hot markets in Southeast Asia are led by China, Hong Kong, and Macau. Every day there are reports of some new mega-project for Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, or Macau. Beijing’s preparation for the 2008 Olympics includes not only the Olympic venues, but also many new hotels, office buildings, convention centers, shopping malls, and museums as collateral development. Add to this commercial development the continuing influx of manufacturing concerns, the expansion of China’s oil industry, and the needed infrastructure enhancements, and you have the makings of an incredibly long-term construction market. Interestingly, private business development is rapidly surpassing the government as the main driver for China’s growing economy.


In Hong Kong, the recent opening of Disney’s new theme park should help drive the continuing development of new hotels and offices. Sun Hung Kai Properties, one of the island’s largest developers, recently posted a 50% increase in annual net profits from the surging real estate market.


Macau is on a tear developing Las Vegas-style gaming facilities. The U.S. Commerce Department reports that more than $12 billion of development is planned over the next four years on gaming-related properties alone. Added to this will be the drive for residences and office buildings as well as infrastructure expansion to support this development.


Middle East


The Middle East hot markets include Dubai and Qatar, which seem to have an insatiable appetite for high-rise buildings of all varieties including offices, hotels, and condominiums. Last year alone, Dubai built 8,000 new homes and launched nearly 40 new real estate developments. With the continued high price of oil and the development of these areas as the “playground of the Middle East,” expect to see this development boom to continue.


Eastern Europe


Somewhat surprising is Eastern Europe where there is growing development activity in many of the old “SSR’s.” Clusters of new high rises are being developed on the Moscow Ring, while Latvia, Estonia, and others are also experiencing their own “boomlets” of construction activity.


Getting Into the Game


So, how does one take advantage of the booming international development markets? There are many ways of finding international business opportunities. Beyond the methods you currently use domestically, sources for finding international opportunities essentially fall into three basic areas: government, current clients, and the Internet.


From the government side, the single best source is the U.S. Department of Commerce. The U.S. Export Assistance Center of the Department of Commerce (USEAC) provides a wealth of information and many services. Some of the more commonly used services include briefings, conferences, exhibitions, matchmaker events, and trade delegations. They have an enormous amount of basic data on most regions of the world with respect to the construction market and trading opportunities. In addition, the embassies regularly send information on project leads to the Washington, D.C., office which, in turn, makes it available to the professional services community. One such report is the listing of all the planned casino projects in Macau mentioned above that includes developer names, planned size of facilities, planned completion date, and the expected construction cost.


A specific “Client Introduction” service offered by USEAC is the “Gold Key” program where they will arrange meetings for you with targeted potential clients in major cities around the world. The meetings are arranged by foreign service nationals in the local consulate office who know their country, the customs, the industry, and the decision makers. The service offers a cost-effective means of introduction to potential clients.


A source of international project opportunities often overlooked is your current domestic client base. Even though they may not have international operations themselves, your domestic clients often are aware of global building plans of their suppliers and business associates. An introduction from a satisfied client to one of their associates can be key in the development of the business relationship you want to cultivate.


One can find vast stores of information and opportunities through the Internet. It is the rare company today that does not have a web site. Mining these sites provides contact names, information on companies’ long-range development plans, and other information to aid in targeting potential clients as well as finding actual project opportunities. Additionally, many foreign governments and development banks (such as the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank) post project opportunities on their web sites. Some sites of international interest include:


·         DOC China site -

·         USEAC China home page -

·         DOC commercial news site -

·         The World Bank -


Lastly, a few print sources that can also be of great help in tracking these markets include The Economist, The Asian Wall Street Journal, and the International Herald Tribune.



Randolph W. Tucker, P.E., FSMPS, is Executive Vice President responsible for global business development for The RJA Group, Inc., a fire protection and security consulting firm with 16 offices across the U.S. and one office in Shanghai. RJA has provided engineering services on building design and industrial projects in over 60 countries. Tucker has been with RJA for over 30 years. His project experience covers a broad range of commercial, industrial, institutional, and transportation facilities worldwide. He serves as a Member of the Board of Directors for the National Fire Protection Association and has presented speeches and seminars on fire safety topics to building owners, developers, code officials, architects, engineers, and security analysts worldwide.


The Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) was created in 1973 by a small group of professional services firm leaders who recognized the need to sharpen skills, pool resources, and work together to create business opportunities. Today, the association has 50 active chapters and a membership of 5,500 marketing and business development professionals representing design, building, and related firms.

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