It was the fall of 1993 when a young Donald LaBelle founded Worldwide Connections, later to become Industrial Leaders. LaBelle, with only a high school education and a little more than $1,000 in savings had an idea to launch a company dedicated to helping U.S. manufacturers expand into foreign markets.
Raised in the Blackstone Valley area of Central Massachusetts, commonly called the birthplace of the industrial revolution, LaBelle seen firsthand one manufacturer after another in the area go out of business. In result thousands of people lost their jobs. Abandoned mills, foundries and industrial plants once inhabited by flourishing companies sadly scattered the landscape.
Manufacturers all over the region either moved overseas or closed its doors for good. Shortly after the entire country started to experience the same domino effect. Factory after factory went out of business or moved operations elsewhere. People lost what was once lifelong jobs they counted on to support their families and pursue the American dream. Livelihoods and dreams were shattered. It was at this moment in time, Don knew his future.
In his early 20's in 1994, long before Google was a household name known around the world, LaBelle believed the Internet was going to change the face of American business and its competitiveness in the global industrial marketplace. He told everyone willing to listen, the Internet will be the greatest marketing tool of all time. Don believed this new phenomenon called the World Wide Web offered American manufacturers the opportunity to more effectively promote their products overseas. However, he warned companies going on-line to proceed with caution because the Internet in the early 1990's, as many will soon learn, had yet to mature.
Don was right. Thousands of companies, investors and entrepreneurs fell prey to poor advice from so-called experts. Billions of dollars were lost. The New York Times and other newspapers called it the 'Great Internet Bust.' But the 25 year old LaBelle believed, as he does today, the Internet never actually busted. Don explained the problem was the technology at the time had yet to reach its potential. Less than ten years later, due to innovative companies such as Google, AOL, Yahoo and MSN, the Web is utilized by millions of people every day across the globe.
In 1999 Don created a Web site for Worldwide Connections, a single Web page supported by advertisements. The modest 'site' served as the first on-line marketplace for US-based manufacturers seeking to enter or expand into overseas markets. As the site's traffic grew, Don began to create Web sites for other US-based companies involved in international trade and continued doing so for several years.
On a Sunday Morning in the Spring of 2003, Donald LaBelle launched Foreign Trade Exchange, later to become known as ForeignTRADEX. The site was designed to connect U.S. and European-based buyers and suppliers of industrial products. Don believed with the recent fall of communists governments in Europe as well as the continued expansion of the European Union, the region would be a vast and important market for American manufacturers and exporters. Today, the EU is considered the largest, single marketplace in the world.
In 2004, Don launched Industrial Leaders, a site focusing on leading U.S. manufacturers and 'Who's Who In The American Industrial Marketplace.' During this phase, the company really began to take off. Over the next several years he launched 11 additional Web sites focusing on various markets around the world. All of which fall under the 'Industrial Leaders Group' umbrella.
Maria Santos, former reporter for International Business Advantage, once wrote about Mr. LaBelle, "In my 18 years of interviewing CEO's, company Presidents and other business leaders, I've never seen anyone with such drive and passion to create quality jobs for Americans." She added, "Although he looks more like a UFC fighter than a corporate executive, he has one of the most intellectual and creative business minds I've ever come across and yet, he prefers to live a quiet and modest lifestyle."
Today, the Industrial Leaders Group continues to flourish, connecting more industrial buyers and suppliers in more countries and markets every day. In fact, more pre-approved manufacturers, distributors, exporters and importers of industrial products are found through the Industrial Leaders Group and its associates than any other resource in the world.