Spain and Morocco put out the welcome mat this week for Alabama business leaders, who visited the countries in an effort to strengthen trade ties.
The 16-member state delegation is nearing the end of the trade mission, which kicked off in Spain with business-to-business meetings, networking opportunities and visits to several companies with a major presence in Alabama.
The group toured an Airbus facility in Madrid where tail sections of the A320 family of aircraft are fabricated, and they saw a tail wing assembly that will soon be shipped to Airbus’ manufacturing plant in Mobile.
The tour was hosted by Rafael González-Ripoll, chairman of the board of Airbus Spain and Latin America.
The Alabama trade team also toured the operations of Gestamp, a Spanish auto supplier with a facility in McCalla, and they met with the leadership of financial giant BBVA, including Executive Director José M. González-Páramo.
Elsewhere on the agenda was a reception hosted by James Costos, U.S. ambassador to Spain, and a seminar held by the Spain Chamber of Commerce that drew 25 Spanish companies.
Alabama Department of Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield also reported that a new prospect for the state’s automotive sector has been identified.
Hilda Lockhart, director of the Commerce Department’s International Trade Division, said there is a significant opportunity to expand trade between Alabama and the two countries.
“The trip is going exceptionally well,” she said. “We are being so well received and there is great interest in why we are here. It is an exciting time to have our companies meet face to face with so many great opportunities.”
The Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday signed a memorandum of understanding with the American Chamber of Commerce in Morocco. The pact calls for the organizations to promote trade and build mutually beneficial business connections.
At the same time, companies represented in the Alabama trade team are making progress on their individual trade goals.
Alabaster’s Sealing Equipment Products Company Inc. is looking to promote its thermal and abrasion management products to the aerospace industry and its industrial sealing products to the materials processing industries.
The company also is seeking to develop distributor relationships, said Chris Wilder, the firm’s CEO.
“The trip has been a great success so far,” Wilder said. “The arrangements and connections have been flawless so far. It has allowed me to further strengthen some of our international relationships and increase the prospects for additional export volume.”
POTENTIAL IN MOROCCO
Exports of Alabama products to Spain topped $95 million in 2015, rising 22 percent from the previous year. Top export categories were minerals and ores, paper, and chemicals.
Meanwhile, Alabama’s exports to Morocco totaled just $9.4 million. They were led by agricultural products, chemicals, and miscellaneous manufactured commodities.
Lockhart said Morocco is a market with significant potential. During the stay there, the delegation has met with business and trade representatives and attended a reception hosted by Nicole D. Theriot, U.S. Consul General to Morocco.
“Very few states are seizing this moment to capture the potential of Morocco and more importantly to use this country to jump off to the African market,” Lockhart said.
Also participating in the trade mission are McWane International, the global marketing arm of pipe manufacturing giant McWane Inc., carpet maker Masland Contract and RMCI Inc., which specializes in helicopter health monitoring and analysis.