Though she has traveled all over the world, Anne Evans says she considers Connecticut to be the center of the universe. A fitting sentiment, given that in her role, she helps Connecticut businesses expand throughout the world.
Evans is the district director for the U.S. Department of Commerce, Commercial Services Division. An offshoot of the Commerce Department's International Trade Administration, Commercial Services works to help small- to medium-sized companies develop and achieve exporting goals.
For Evans, that means bringing Connecticut companies to the global marketplace through education, advocacy, and the type of personalized attention one might not expect from such a large entity.
"As part of the U.S. Government, we need to prove every day that we are here to help, that we can help, that we really are public servants," she says.
Business owner Andrew Gibson, who nominated Evans for this year's Women in Business awards, says she truly walks the walk when it comes to bringing personal service to companies like his. He and Evans first met in 2010, when he became curious about the rapid growth of aerospace companies on an international level.
"I saw that U.S. Commercial Services was offering information on exporting business, so I contacted them," says the CEO of AeroCision, an aerospace engineering company based in Chester. "I was astonished at the immediate attention I received as a small business, and at the amount of time and energy Anne and her team put into us."
Evans says that after a four hour staff meeting with Gibson and his team, it was clear that everyone there understood the importance of moving globally. Through their work together, AeroCision developed the knowledge and tools necessary to make the leap from local business to international player.
"Expanding globally is scary in terms of credits, legalities, and paperwork," Gibson says. "Through the symposiums presented by Commercial Services, exporting became less mysterious to us; we in turn grew more confident, and felt ready to get into exporting."
In addition to individualized attention from Evan's team, Gibson also took advantage of a Commercial Services sponsored trade mission to England in 2011, where he learned that there were many countries looking to do business with American aerospace companies due to the worldwide industry standard of dealing in U.S. dollars.
Today, AeroCision works with a significant number of international clients. Due to the tremendous growth of his company, Gibson recently hired six new employees to handle the demands of their export business.
Evans says the AeroCision story perfectly demonstrates the point of her team's mission.
"My job is about jobs, and the proof is in the Andrew Gibsons," she says. "His company has shown that if you are forward thinking, innovative, and have the wherewithal and the guts, you will be successful."
In addition to presenting symposiums and holding sit-down meetings with local companies, Commercial Services also hosts an ongoing series of webinars, making it easier for busy executives to attend. Foreign trade missions are also a regular offering; current plans are underway for a mission to China specifically to promote investment in Connecticut companies.
At the heart of Evans' motivation is the fact that she is truly a champion for the state of Connecticut. Her drive and passion are firmly rooted in her family's business history here.
"My great grandfather landed in Middletown in 1898 with four dollars in his pocket, knowing no English," she says. "Within ten years he had a business, and within fifty years he had a thriving family tire retreading business."
Evans carried on the tradition, growing her family's local company into a global competitor which is still operating today. Given her background, it's no wonder Evans has such valuable expertise to pass on to local business owners like Gibson, who calls her a role model.
Evans is quick to deflect that sort of praise, however, pointing out that her department is successful only through the joint efforts of her phenomenal team members.
"It's great to be the lead dog, but without everyone, the sled doesn't move," she says.
Along with Evans, Commercial Services is comprised of three full time employees and a handful of interns and contractors. Together, they work with 3,000 or so companies, up to two-thirds of them very closely.
Many of the part time workers on Evans' staff are military veterans, a group about whose cause she is highly passionate. Her department offers a unique jobs skills program which enables veterans to learn while working; many of the participants go on to full time positions within the companies helped by Commercial Services.
Evans also works with Junior Achievement, promoting her belief that young people should be valued as the businesspeople of the future.
"The world of global business is an ecosystem," she says. "We need to think of ways to teach kids — from kindergarten up — how people and companies grow."
Gibson says Evans' passion for business, and for Connecticut, is what prompted him to nominate her for this year's awards.
"Given the success of her company, Anne could have retired and lived a fabulous life in Florida," he says. "Instead, she took all of the skills she gained working in private enterprise and took them to the federal government, where she shared them for use by private enterprises like mine. In that way, I see her as pretty patriotic."