While trade normalization with Cuba has been all the rage this year, several companies in Alabama took part in a trade mission in September that targeted potential new markets in Mexico and Chile.
The trade mission was launched in conjunction with the U.S. Commercial Service’s Trade Winds program, which includes regional and industry-specific conferences, as well as pre-arranged consultations with senior diplomats.
Alabama companies participating in the trip included Alabama Roll Products Inc., Back Forty Beer Co., the Dixie Group Inc., Giles & Kendall Inc., Induron Coatings LLC, Knox Kershaw Inc., Oakman Hardwood Inc., Process Barron, RMCI Inc., SEPCO, Smarter Services LLC and Warren Manufacturing.
Oakman Hardwood made the trip hoping to benefit from a shift in the company’s raw material resources, says Trey Trainum, sales manager. “Our interest is in Mexico, as it is in close proximity. And the weakening peso may give incentive for buyers to look at our current niche items. The trade mission will be our first step into the Mexican market, ” he says.
Based in Walker County, Oakman Hardwood provides high-grade white oak to the Italian and Spanish markets, and those were the firm’s top international markets before its shift in raw material resources. “As white oak log prices continued to escalate, yarding and exponentially increasing priced raw material presented new financial risks, ” Trainum says. “As a result, we pulled out of the European markets a few years ago and began focusing on utilizing species of lesser financial risk.”
The company began indirectly exporting niche items two years ago into the Caribbean markets. “We have high hopes that our shift in raw material resources will benefit Mexican lumber importers and that Mexico will be our top foreign market in the near future, ” Trainum says.
Last year, Alabama’s exports totaled $19.37 billion, having grown 25 percent since 2010 and 78 percent in the past decade. Top exports in 2015 were vehicles, primary metals and machinery, and the state’s top export market was Canada.
Text by Dave Helms