Kurtis Walter was introduced to ITC by a coworker when he asked Kurtis to participate as one of the featured speakers for the virtual training session on export documentation. Meeting some of the members and learning more about the council, he realized this would be a good opportunity to meet and connect with other international trade professionals in the Kansas City area.
Prior to his career in international trade, he used to work in the footwear industry, which took him to some cities in Mexico and Canada, but his primary travels were to China and Taiwan. Kurtis has visited several major cities in China like Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Chongqing. But if he were to pick a favorite city in China, it would be Xiamen. It is a smaller coastal city across from Taiwan with much less people, less metropolitan, and more natural beauty. What he likes about international travel is the opportunity to experience and better understand other cultures.
Kurtis is currently the Director, International Trade Compliance at Dairy Farmers of America where he has served for three years. He graduated from Kansas State University with an Industrial Engineering degree. A large footwear company headquartered in Topeka, KS was hiring young Industrial Engineers to work in their distribution center to improve processes and efficiencies. That led him to a packaging engineer position within the sourcing department at the corporate office. Later he was given opportunities managing different areas in logistics and international transportation. Then a customs compliance manager position opened, and they asked if he would be interested. One of the requirements was to take the US customs broker exam which he knew of the difficulty and challenge of passing this exam. Fortunately, he was disciplined enough to plan his study time and stick to it. Kurtis passed and earned his US Customs Broker License. He served as the Global Customs Compliance Manager for approximately 6 years. During that time, the footwear company was facing some business challenges. There was new ownership, leadership, and a lot of restructuring going on. That’s when he applied for an open position as Manager, International Trade Compliance at Dairy Farmers of America. "I am thankful they hired me, then promoted me, and so here I am."
One of the goals he is currently working on is to develop a top tier trade compliance program here at Dairy Farmers of America. DFA is in good shape, but Kurtis still has some work to do to raise the bar. After that, Kurtis is open to any opportunities within his company to fill a need. "Since the pandemic, I would like to start getting out more. There are a lot of places I haven’t visited and a lot of people I haven’t met yet. I would like to start developing new relationships in person again."
Fun Facts & Advice
Name three people (dead or alive) that you would invite to dinner:
- Elon Musk is very intriguing to me
- Abraham Lincoln might have some valuable guidance on how to heal a divided country
- My grandmother who passed away in a house fire before he was born. I have heard that she was a wonderful woman.
What was the last book that you read?
It seems to have been a while since I have read a book so I am not exactly sure which one was the last, but it may have been one written by Mark Levin.
Who inspires you?
Several people have inspired me over the years like parents, grandparents, good teachers, good bosses and leaders at work and some religious leaders. I probably can’t name just one.
What advice would you give someone who wants to get into International Business/International Trade?
There are a lot of countries with a lot of different regulations, and they seem to change often. There is no end to learning if you are willing. There is too much information for one person to know everything. Develop key relationships with experienced people in the areas that you are interested. Build your list of reliable resources. Members of this International Trade Council are great resources. People who work at customs brokerage and freight forwarding companies are good resources as well.
What else do you want to tell us about yourself/what is something unique about you that is generally not known?
I sing tenor in my church choir.