Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield is leading a team of state business leaders on a trade mission in South America this week, aiming to forge new relationships and find new markets for their goods and services.
The mission to Argentina and Ecuador features a wide variety of the state’s business interests, with representatives from the tech, engineering, medical and manufacturing fields.
In both countries, the delegation will meet with public and private sector leaders to explore new business and investment opportunities.
“Alabama companies are making their mark in all corners of the world, with high-quality, in-demand products and innovative processes that are consistently recognized as market leaders,” Canfield said.
“As we have seen time after time, connections made on these trade missions help our businesses gain a foothold in new markets and grow their international sales, which helps create new jobs and investments back home.”
Last year, Alabama exports reached a record $21.7 billion, a 6 percent increase from the previous year.
The state’s exports to Argentina totaled $111.5 million, increasing 108 percent from 2016. Top categories were minerals and ores, chemicals and transportation equipment. More growth is projected for the country’s economy in the coming years, buoyed by rich natural resources and a broad middle class with strong purchasing power.
Meanwhile, Alabama’s exports to Ecuador were $7.8 million last year. The country, a top oil and agricultural exporter, is seeking to diversify its economy, with the government focused on opening it up to more international trade.
Alabama companies participating in the trade mission include Atlas RFID Solutions and Warren Manufacturing of Birmingham; Douglas Manufacturing of Pell City, Irrigation Components of Daphne; Knox Kershaw of Montgomery; ProcessBarron of Pelham; Rico Suction Labs of Mobile; SEPCO of Alabaster; and Smarter Services LLC of Prattville.
For ProcessBarron, the trade mission is part of a recent effort to expand export activities in Central and South America.
The company provides air, gas, fuel and ash handling equipment for a variety of heavy industrial uses, including plants in the pulp and paper, iron and steel, cement and sugar industries.
“We’re trying to expand our footprint in those same industries in other countries,” said Vince Simpson, regional sales manager for ProcessBarron, who is traveling with the trade mission delegation. “We’re taking what we do best and trying to do it somewhere else.”
The company’s export business started about 20 years ago in the Dominican Republic, where its key customers are a large power plant, sugar mills and cement plants.
In addition to new customers, the company is also seeking local representatives for its products in South America, Simpson said.
“If you can go on a trade mission, it will open doors for you by facilitating meetings and introductions,” he said.
Hilda Lockhart, director of the Alabama Department of Commerce’s Office of International Trade, said the delegation has a full slate of meetings and networking opportunities in Argentina and Ecuador.
“We have collaborated with the American Chamber of Commerce in Buenos Aires to put together a seminar that will highlight the business and investment opportunities Alabama provides for Argentine businesses,” she said.
“This program allows us to meet with local, national and international businesses to explore opportunities for all of Alabama and not just the companies that are participating in the trade mission.”
Also in Buenos Aires, delegation members will meet with several top government officials, including the minister of foreign affairs and the minister of production (trade), among others.
And in both Argentina and Ecuador, the group will attend receptions at the ambassadors’ residences, which provide an additional avenue to meet with business and government leaders, Lockhart said.
“As with all trade missions, we are working with our Foreign Commercial Service at the embassies that are setting up pre-qualified B2B meetings with prospective customers, business partners and industry leaders for our small and medium-sized businesses — helping to connect these companies is what the trade mission is all about,” she said.
“Many of these companies do not have the resources or opportunities to push their quality-made products in overseas markets. So, with the assistance of the Export Alabama Alliance, we are able to help create these customized itineraries.”
This story originally appeared on the Alabama Department of Commerce’s Made in Alabama website.