EDEN -- When corporate giants Oracle, Pfizer and General Electric need vital research data to help plan their next global move, it's not big-name firms in New York, San Francisco or Miami they turn to.
Think closer to home. Salt Lake City? Nope. Provo? Wrong. Ogden? Getting warmer.
When people think of cities that are home to global business data firms, Eden probably isn't the first place that comes to mind.
Ron Lackey, of CUSTOMS Info, is trying to change that.
Founded in 1992, the company started by consolidating massive amounts of documents onto WordPerfect-compatible floppy disks, making the data retrievable using keyword searches.
Today, the firm focuses on locating, manipulating and distributing regulatory content from countries around the world while minimizing dependence on massive teams of human employees.
"What we do is go around the world and get all this trade information from about 200 countries and bring that back here to Utah, then normalize that data and start to push that data out to our customers," Lackey said.
A subscription website that allows customers to classify their product, look up duties and taxes and shipping costs is one of six different ways CUSTOMS Info turns that data into dollar signs.
Another fast-moving sector of CUSTOMS Info provides trade content to business management software giants SAP and Oracle.
"Today we're the exclusive content provider for Oracle. That's a pretty big feather in our cap," Lackey said.
Lackey and his partner, Matt Gersper, acquired the company in 2004 and simultaneously launched sister a company -- Global Data Mining, based in Camp Verde, Ariz. -- with Lackey taking the reins of CUSTOMS Info and Gersper at the helm of Global Data Mining.
While the two companies differ when it comes to aspects of the data management sector, Gersper said they both accomplish the same goal.
"Both of these businesses really focus on data management and using data to help our clients make better, more informed decisions," he said. "CUSTOMS Info provides online research and data for global trade management. Global Data Mining provides business data management and customs audit management, through outsourcing and software, and business intelligence."
Lackey says that running a primarily Web-based business allowed him the flexibility to choose a place like Eden to conduct business, citing low overhead and the fact that the majority of CUSTOMS Info's employee base works from home as factors that influenced his decision to set up shop in the valley.
The natural surroundings didn't hurt, either.
"Clients and partners and vendors love to come see us during the wintertime," Lackey said of the office's 20-minute proximity to three ski resorts and Pineview Reservoir. While home base is Eden, the core group is constantly on the road at trade shows, conducting seminars, and doing whatever is necessary to keep their name out there, Lackey said.
"I think we're very public for being headquartered here in Eden."
Since a large portion of CUSTOMS Info's mission is gathering port data from locations around the world, Lackey pointed out the dramatic impact the Sept. 11 attacks had on the international trade landscape.
"9/11 really changed a lot, obviously, and it caused an increased scrutiny on imports," he said. "Governments all around the world for security reasons are requiring more and more trade data earlier. Companies not only need to understand the rules with what they're shipping to keep themselves out of trouble but they need to communicate to governments what they're shipping as well."
But these trade rules don't just apply to big companies Lackey said, explaining that with the rise of sites like eBay, individuals are just as likely to buy a product from a seller in China as they are from a seller in Denver. It's in both parties' interest to know what tariffs and agreements are in place to protect themselves.
Large international corporations like Pfizer and Home Depot need three things for their information chain, Lackey explained: trade data (from companies like CUSTOMS Info), a handle on their own business data organized so they understand how their products fit into the world economy from a duty and tax standpoint, and the enterprise application software to get it all done.
"In order to facilitate the automation of international trade these large corporations have to have this trade data," Lackey said. "Every country in the world has a tariff and that's how they're able to calculate the duties and taxes."
And what about the language barrier that inevitably comes up in international business?
Lackey says another local company specializing in global business solutions helps out with that.
"The other interesting Utah twist is obviously we live in a tremendously diverse number of language speakers," he said.
"We use U.S. Translation down in Ogden to do a lot of translation work for us. We're able to get text translated from many, many different countries around the world."
Hard work, solid business models and targeting of a specialty niche have allowed both Lackey and Gersper to watch their businesses grow over the last seven years. Considering projected trends through the next 5-10 years, there's plenty to smile about at CUSTOMS Info and Global Data Mining.
"Total worldwide trade defined by imports in 1990 was a total of $3 trillion," Gersper said. "By 2004 it had grown to $9 trillion, by 2009 it grew to $16 trillion, and we're forecasting it to go to $70 trillion by 2025."