The Greater Des Moines Partnership is boosting its international business efforts, offering new services and educational opportunities to companies hoping to break into or expand their presence in foreign markets.

Central to the Partnership’s new list of services is the eCertify program, which streamlines the paper-based process of stamping and signing Certificates of Origins by allowing businesses to file them electronically, said Meg Fitz, senior vice president of regional business development.

Certificates of Origins are documents used in international trade that attest that goods were made, manufactured and processed in a particular country. They are administered through the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“Businesses have to fill out the paper, get in their car to bring it over here, wait on us to notarize it just to get back in their car and go back to the office,” Fitz said of what she called an outdated system. Businesses that participate in the electronic program can also keep better track of records, she said. “They can look and see the transactions that took place,” she said.

The Partnership introduced the program last year and received its first submission in September 2012.

It receives about 15 submissions a month from businesses across a wide range of industries, including the food additives industry, stainless steel check valve manufacturers, truck accessories manufacturers, agricultural equipment manufacturers and frozen pork producers.

Fitz said nearly all of the Partnership’s member businesses that export their products internationally now file their Certificates of Origins through the eCertify program, and the Partnership is catching up the remaining businesses on the new system.

Stacy Timperley, assistant business manager at West Des Moines-based Ten Square International Inc., which markets and sells agricultural and industrial equipment in China, said her company has used the program a handful of times since last fall. “It’s fast and convenient and stores information online,” she said.

However, because eCertify is new and not all countries use it, there are some kinks, she said. The elimination of personal interaction means documents no longer get an original signature on them, which has caused some holdups with clients in China, who don’t use similar technologies.

But Timperley believes that problem will be eliminated once other countries catch up.

Iowa’s export levels hit a record high in 2012, growing 10 percent from $13.3 billion to $14.6 billion, according to the International Trade Administration. The Partnership has always had some focus on international trade, but it has recently increased its efforts due to the growing number of opportunities to do business outside the United States.

In addition to eCertify, the Partnership hosted Export University in early April. The three-day program, which was co-hosted by U.S. Commercial Service Iowa and Iowa District Export Council, featured Catherine Petersen of C.J. Petersen & Associates LLC, a consulting and research firm.

Attendees got a crash course on entering foreign markets, export regulations and necessary documentation, among other common pitfalls, before receiving a certificate of completion at the end of the three days, said Kari Tindall, the Partnership’s director of media and marketing for economic development.

“A lot of companies aren’t sure of how to start or what to do,” she said. “This is an intensive program to go through the difficulties and offer them clarification.”