Business leaders from across Alabama will be in Europe and Africa next week, seeking new markets for their state-made goods and services.
Alabama Department of Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield is leading a trade and business development mission to Spain and Morocco that kicks off today with the group’s departure.
The 16-member delegation is made up of economic development and trade professionals from across the state, as well as representatives of companies in Birmingham, Huntsville, Satsuma, Leeds, Saraland and Alabaster.
The companies include 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.
“We strive to open doors for Alabama businesses seeking to build new connections in overseas markets like Spain and Morocco because exports help lift Alabama’s economy and create jobs,” Secretary Canfield said.
“At the same time, we want to forge new bonds on trade missions like this as a means of developing new relationships that we find can provide mutual economic benefit and lead to long-term growth for Alabama’s economy,” he added.
FIRST STOP: MADRID
Alabama’s exports to Spain surpassed $95 million in 2015, rising 22 percent from the previous year. Top export categories were minerals and ores, paper, and chemicals. Exports to Morocco, meanwhile, totaled just $9.4 million, lead by agricultural products, chemicals, and miscellaneous manufactured commodities.
The Alabama trade mission begins Monday in Madrid, where the group’s activities include a business roundtable with the Spain Chamber of Commerce and meetings with Airbus Madrid; Gestamp, an auto supplier with a facility near Birmingham; and BBVA, a financial giant whose U.S. arm has major operations in Alabama.
The Alabama group also will attend a reception at the home of James Costos, U.S. ambassador to Spain.
Then it’s on to Casablanca, where the group will meet with the American Chamber of Commerce in Morocco and attend a reception hosted by Nicole D. Theriot, U.S. Consul General to Morocco.
Throughout the trip, meetings are planned between Alabama companies and trade and business representatives in the countries.
For Warren Manufacturing Inc., the trade mission is an opportunity to investigate promising business leads and lay groundwork for the future. The company’s main export is the bulk feed trailer and feed body that it fabricates in Birmingham.
“Right now our activity in Spain and especially Europe is non-existent,” said Michael Clark, Warren Manufacturing’s international sales manager. “With current competition in the region and regulations, it will be tough to break into that region.”
Clark said his mission in Spain is to collect more information and talk to companies to see if there are future possibilities for Warren Manufacturing in that market.
Morocco, however, is a different story.
“We are currently doing business in Algeria and Egypt and have had quite a few inquiries from Morocco. I have talked with several people who have told me Morocco is always looking at alternatives to our European competitors. I hope to find out this is true in my visit to Casablanca,” Clark said.
Another trade mission participant is Sealing Equipment Products Co. Inc. The Alabaster company’s product lineup includes mechanical seals, compression packings, graphite products and gasketing materials.
“On this trip SEPCO will be trying to further develop our business relationships with a developing customer in Spain and Portugal,” said company CEO Chris Wilder. “We are also working towards establishing a relationship with a distributor in Morocco.”
SEPCO’s customer base is diverse, including those in power generation, pulp and paper, chemical processing, mining, nuclear, aerospace and water/waste treatment.
“We are very excited and grateful to be able to work with the state of Alabama and the U.S. Department of Commerce on this trade mission,” Wilder said. “Without their assistance and support this type of trip would not be possible for us.”