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State-based success stories competing on a global stage

Competing globally is becoming the norm for Mississippi businesses of all sizes. The state’s biggest companies are no exception, and many of them are succeeding on the world stage.

One of those is the Viking Range Company. Based in Greenwood, the company was incorporated in 1984 and shipped its first products in 1987. Early on, the decision was made to go global, according to Dale Persons, vice president of corporate development. Persons, who’s been with Viking for 18 years, said international sales is considered as developing business for the growing company.

“We have been blessed with very strong growth in the United States and thought we needed to start thinking globally early in the life of the company,” he said. “We had some growing pains and learned a lot.”

Viking Range recognizes that markets are different in various locations, even in this country. That’s why decisions are determined through local representatives. “For instance, the United Kingdom has different needs from the U.S. We de-centralize to a large extent,” Persons said. “We keep that in mind even with the advertising we do in magazines in this country. Some of those magazines are picked up by travelers and end up all over the world.”

Located in Strasbourg, France, Viking Europe is a stand-alone office. An office in Bangkok, Thailand, covers Asian Pacific countries where Viking is experiencing double-digit growth. An agent in San Diego covers Mexico and the countries of Central America, South America and the Middle East.

Growing the market

“We’re very committed to growing the international market as we become more of a player,” he said. “We market the complete culinary lifestyle through The Viking Life, which covers all aspects of culinary travel and ties in with our international markets.”

Persons said the global market is changing because there is now more universal desire for quality. “We’re finding that in all markets of the world now American products are considered very good,” he said. “There is more and more acceptance of them. For those reasons, there’s more demand in developing countries now.”

Jay Moon, executive director of the Mississippi Manufacturers Association, observed that state companies are taking advantage of the growing global economy. “It’s a seamless market and will become more transparent,” he said. “We’re producing world-class goods here. Our growth is in long-term industries. We are seeing emerging markets and global competition will only get tougher.”

Staying active

According to Liz Cleveland, manager of the Mississippi Development Authority’s International Trade Office, international trade specialists in the Jackson office and in a network of overseas offices work with private-sector firms to assist with global competition.

“Our program is pro-active as well as re-active,” Cleveland said. “We consistently call on firms around the state to interest them in international markets. With exports up double digits each year, we are constantly adding new clients as well as continuing to work with existing ones.”

Barbara Travis, the Mississippi World Trade Center’s (MSWTC’s) executive director, said her organization also works with state companies to encourage international marketing.

“Educational events and referrals are the services most utilized,” Travis said. “I think we do a great job of providing pertinent and timely trade information to our members, but it is also our job to analyze client needs and direct them to the best public and private resources for targeted assistance and one-on-one consulting.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.


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