Alabama Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield is leading a trade mission to Canada this week that aims to build on already strong ties with the state’s strongest international trade partner.
The Alabama trade and business development mission kicks off today in Montréal, then shifts to Toronto for the 10th annual Southeast U.S.-Canadian Provinces (SEUS-CP) Conference, which officially begins Monday.
SEUS-CP promotes mutual trade and investment opportunities between six Canadian provinces and six Southeastern states. Next year’s conference is set for Mobile.
“Canada and Alabama are deeply intertwined, as two-way trade totaled more than $6 billion in 2016,” Canfield said. “Canada is the No. 1 market for Alabama exports, and the state is home to around 50 Canadian manufacturing facilities that are thriving.
“At the same time, we know there are more opportunities for Alabama to explore by expanding this rewarding relationship,” he added. “This trip will highlight those increasing prospects for both trade and investment.”
In addition to Commerce officials, the Alabama trade mission team includes representatives of six technology-focused businesses from across the state, as well as trade specialists from the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce and the University of Alabama Center for Economic Development.
In Montréal, Québec, Canfield will engage in appointments and the delegation’s business representatives will participate in matchmaking sessions with Canadian counterparts. “Montréal is an ideal stop for the mission because it is the second-largest city in Canada and serves as the headquarters for a number of Canada’s major corporations,” said Hilda Lockhart, director of the Office of International Trade at the Alabama Department of Commerce.
“Montréal also has industry sectors that are a natural fit for the companies in our delegation, including aerospace, defense, renewable energy, information and communication technology, telecommunications and software engineering, among others,” she said.
Canfield said the SEUS-CP conference in Toronto, Ontario, will allow the Alabama team to explore and develop opportunities in several commercial areas, but particularly in automotive manufacturing, sustainable technologies and information and communication technology, or ICT.
On the second day of the conference, the Alabama team will host a networking lunch, where Canfield will preview the next SEUS-CP conference, scheduled for June 3-5, 2018, in Mobile.
Hosting the event is seen as a prime opportunity to promote Alabama and particularly its Port City to Canadian business leaders and trade experts.
“The Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce is excited for the opportunity to support Alabama Department of Commerce, and have Mobile serve as the host city for the 2018 SEUS-CP conference,” said Bill Sisson, the chamber’s president and CEO.
“It’s especially exciting for us having recently announced investment from Canadian companies such as Danby and Canfor,” Sisson said. “We look forward to showcasing Mobile and welcoming delegations from across the Southeast U.S. and Canada.”
Canadian companies have an active presence in Alabama. Last year alone, 13 Canadian firms announced new investments totaling $145 million in Alabama, creating nearly 530 jobs, according to the Commerce data.
Canada has also long been a chief destination for Alabama-made products. In 2016, Alabama companies shipped $4.2 billion in products to Canada, an increase of 10 percent from the previous year.
Exports of Alabama-made automobiles to Canada jumped nearly 30 percent last year to total nearly $2.8 billion, according to Commerce data. Other top Alabama exports to Canada in 2016 were machinery, primary metals and chemicals. Categories registering large gains included electrical equipment, agricultural products and minerals.
Lockhart said the trade mission seeks to extend those ties and unlock possibilities for Alabama companies in search of new markets and partnerships.
“Trade missions are an important component of the state’s international trade strategy as it positions Alabama businesses for export success in global markets,” she said. “We wanted to take advantage of recruiting companies to Canada to participate in the SEUS CP conference by adding another stop to the mix. Taking advantage of two large markets in Canada was certainly a draw for many of our companies in making a decision to participate.”
Alabama companies represented on the trade mission are Advanced Optical Systems (Huntsville), Archangel Systems (Auburn), Ark Labs (Florence), DataCom Solutions (Huntsville), Mapusoft Technologies (Mobile) and Prism Systems (Mobile).
The Canadian Provinces involved in SEUS-CP are Québec, Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador. Besides Alabama, the Southeastern states are North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee.
This story originally appeared on the Alabama Department of Commerce’s Made in Alabama website.