Tacoma World Trade Center: The Northwest’s Best Kept Business Secret

Nowhere is the old line, “It is not WHAT you know, but WHO you know,” more relevant than when dealing with international trade. And the WHO to know in the northwest is Louise Tieman. Her world, the Tacoma World Trade Center group, may be the best kept, most valuable business secret in the Puget Sound region.

As Director of WTC in Tacoma, Washington, she sees clearly what businesses and organizations often don’t see; the role international relationships play in creating high value businesses.

World Trade Center’s Louise Tieman

Her love for cultivating broad relationships dates to student days at University of Puget Sound when she took a Pacific Rim trip that made her fall in love with the countries she visited; a trip that took her to South Korea, China, Japan, Burma, Thailand, Sri Lanka, India, and Nepal.

Flash forward to today where Tieman sees companies experience her talents daily. It is a line Louise and her staff have heard time and time again in one form or another: ‘Wow, we had no idea joining the WTC would revolutionize our business.”  Whether it is still a secret or simply a matter of not having the know how to move forward, many companies have yet to experience the cash flow increases and product improvements that come from doing business in places where prices are low and high-tech manufacturing ability is high. One company that benefited from WTC is Heritage Distilling Company (HDC). in Gig Harbor, Washington.

Heritage Distilling

Heritage Distilling is the brainchild of Jennifer Stiefel, Co-Founder & President and Justin Stiefel, Co-Founder, CEO, and Master Distiller. The company, which opened the first distillery in South Puget Sound since Prohibition, had been on a fast track toward expansion since day one. Heritage Distilling is Washington’s most recognizable name in craft distilling, and has been the most awarded craft distillery in North America for 2014, 2015, and 2016 by the American Distilling Institute. Their iconic Batch No. 12 lineup is ubiquitous in northwest stores and their latest creation – BSB-Brown Sugar Bourbon- is the hottest new spirits product in the Northwest.

Tieman, herself well versed on China and doing business there, and her team had spent months preparing for the trip. That preparation included knowing the interests of those going on the trade mission, calling WTC trade partners and government suppliers, identifying the best ones for the job, and setting up the matchmaking tour. All product information is translated from Chinese and WTC’s own staff supervises all meetings. Point people are not merely translators, but highly skilled in trade and negotiating.

Another recent success story involved Detour Bar, a California company with an award-winning protein bar. They were looking to expand into Asia and needed someone to help them make sense of such an intimidating and huge marketplace.

WTC assigned a specialist and business matchmaker Fanghui Li, to work with the company for a year as a business consulting facilitator and take them to China. Detour Bar had also set up a meeting with Starbucks in China and Fanghui accompanied them. For Li, a bilingual business consultant who served WTC by representing the Detour team, the job involved many moving parts: From analyzing how the company goals fit with the Chinese market to navigating supply chain management to world-wide distribution through stores like Costco. For companies like Detour Bar or Heritage Distilling Company, the task was more straightforward: Have a need and become a member of WTC.


It is no cliché’ to suggest the opportunities today to build a world class business are as great as they have ever been. To Tieman and her crew, the first step is knowing about and connecting with a local team that opens the right doors to the rest of the world.