Phone Links Ease Dealmaking for World Trade Centers

CHATTANOOGA is networking with the rest of the world.

Through its fledgling World Trade Center (WTC), business people in this Southeast Tennessee city have an avenue into global markets - the WTC NETWORK Bulletin Board. Users here and elsewhere place advertisements on the electronic system to buy and sell goods and services. These "trade leads" reach more than 160 participating World Trade Centers around the globe and over 1,500 of their clients.

The service, started by the World Trade Centers Association in 1985, places about 700 ads monthly. And each month the ads prompt about 30,000 requests by potential business partners for more information, also available by computer.

"It is a classified ads" system with worldwide reach, says Terry Roberson, NETWORK coordinator for WTC-Chattanooga.

"I had a fellow come in one day who needed something he thought he could get cheaply from China," Ms. Roberson says. She encouraged the businessman to use the NETWORK to seek other options, too. "He ended up doing business with Czechoslovakia, because that's where he found the product that he wanted at the best price."

Last fall, the NETWORK improved its services by contracting with General Electric Information Services, which runs the world's largest commercially available teleprocessing network.

The GE unit provides "electronic mail messaging, fax, and telex capabilities," says George Marx, manager of the NETWORK, located at the World Trade Centers Association in New York. New software makes it easier for WTC members to use the NETWORK with their personal computers in the office or at home, he adds.

Roberson tells of one woman who became very upset because her husband put NETWORK service in their home and began staying up nights making calls around the world. "She says both the fax and the phone are ringing all the time."

The NETWORK system also distributes its ads to about 75 print publications with a total potential readership of 3.4 million people, Mr. Marx says. Many of these publications are specialized, and so only run the ads that apply to their readers.

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