Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield is leading a team of state business leaders on a trade mission this week to Romania and Bulgaria, countries that offer new markets in southeastern Europe and a potential gateway to opportunities in other regions.
The multi-sector trade and business development mission kicked off Monday in Bucharest, the Romanian cultural, industrial and financial center, before moving on to to Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital and largest city.
Over five days, the Alabama delegation will meet with public and private sector leaders in the two countries to explore new opportunities for exports, investment and collaboration.
“This trade mission is about helping Alabama companies identify new markets for their goods and services, so they can create jobs and make new investments in their communities back home,” Canfield said.
“We are constantly working to open doors for state business targeting connections in countries such as Romania and Bulgaria because it sparks growth in Alabama’s economy.”
Romania is a market with excellent potential, a strategic location and a favorable business climate, according to Hilda Lockhart, director of the International Trade Division at the Alabama Department of Commerce. Its economy expanded 6.9 percent in 2017, the highest level in a decade, making it one of the European Union’s fastest-growing economies.
Sectors with the best prospects include agricultural products, machinery and equipment, energy, transportation, and information and communications technology.
Bulgaria represents an emerging market providing very good potential for companies new to exporting. Wages are low by European standards, and the labor force is well educated, young and possesses good language skills, Lockhart said.
Bulgaria’s top imports include medical instruments, industry machinery and vehicles.
Alabama companies exported $6.8 million in goods to Bulgaria in 2017, an increase of nearly 1,400 percent from the previous year, according to Alabama Department of Commerce data. Alabama exports to Romania totaled $2.2 million last year, a jump of more than 170 percent.
Trade mission agenda
The trade mission kicked off Monday with a briefing at the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest, followed by scheduled one-on-one business appointments in the afternoon and a networking reception hosted by U.S. Ambassador Hans Klemm.
After additional meetings today in Bucharest, the Alabama group will travel to Sofia on Wednesday. Representatives of the Alabama businesses will engage in meetings with Bulgarian counterparts on Thursday, followed by a networking reception led by U.S. Ambassador Eric Rubin.
More company meetings follow on Friday, and the group returns home on Saturday.
“Alabama has never traveled to these markets on a multi-industry trade and business development mission,” Lockhart said. “Many of the businesses on the mission are mature small and medium-sized businesses, and we know these emerging markets can provide excellent potential for partnering opportunities.”
Alabama companies on the mission are:
- Huntsville’s Baron Services, which specializes in advanced weather radars and visualization software.
- Daphne’s Irrigation Components International, which provides parts for irrigation systems to dealers and manufacturers.
- Montgomery’s Knox Kershaw, a maker of railway maintenance equipment used worldwide.
- Warrior’s Mid-America Engine, which provides power generation equipment used on five continents and many of the most remote locations on the planet.
- Okra Energy, a developer of advanced small-scale liquified natural gas technologies that has an office in Jackson.
- Huntsville’s R2C Support Services, which provides products and services to the U.S. Department of Defense and other clients.
- Birmingham’s Thompson Tractor, a major sales representative of Caterpillar heavy equipment for the construction and other industries.
Also represented on the mission is the University of Alabama Center for Economic Development, the University of Alabama in Huntsville, and the Alabama National Guard.
“Going into emerging markets can be daunting for small companies,” Lockhart said. “Having assistance from Alabama’s state, regional and federal partners in putting together the logistics and appointments helps our companies focus on selling their products. Also, we’re able to identify new collaborations and forge long-term partnerships for the future.”
An earlier Alabama trade mission this year traveled to Argentina and Ecuador.
This story originally appeared on the Alabama Department of Commerce’s Made in Alabama website.