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Embracing globalization means billions for Mississippi companies

Like every other state economy, Mississippi’s is going global.

The latest figures from the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) show that in 2006, Mississippi companies exported more than $4.6 billion in goods.

The products ran the gamut of manufactured goods — machinery, chemicals, food products, wood products and electronics.

That is what is required for a company to compete in a global economy. To survive, a company has to expand its customer base beyond the United States border.

North of the border is where the bulk of goods went in 2006, according to MDA numbers. Canada took in nearly $1.1 billion worth of goods from Mississippi, almost 23% of the market share. Mexico came in second, bringing in a total of not quite $671 million, approximately 14% of the market share.

In all, 10 countries received goods from Mississippi companies.

“It’s been an issue for a long time,” says Jay Moon, president and CEO of the Mississippi Manufacturers Association, which has programs designed to educate its members on the ins and outs of international trade.

“We show them what to expect as far as exchange rates, international cultures, international measurements, and generally kind of give them the feel of a particular country.”

Also an asset to businesses looking to export are trade shows put on by the MDA, providing a foothold in the global market. The Import/Export Bank helps with insurance to appease fears of products arriving at a dock and going undelivered and loans to defray the costs of international shipping.

“The whole issue is matching the services to the needs of companies with no history of international trade,” Moon says. “There is a learning curve.

“Once a company actually makes an (international) sale, it gives them confidence. And they’re off and running.”

The most recent data from the U.S. Department of Commerce shows the Mississippi companies running the fastest when it comes to exports are Nissan, Peavey Electronics, Northrop Grumman, Trinity Marine, DuPont, Chevron, Staplcotn and Georgia-Pacific. A total of 1,602 companies exported goods from Mississippi in 2004.

Moon says that number is certain to rise, due to the weakening of the U.S. dollar overseas. Because its value is less than its international counterparts, dollar-based goods are attractive to international consumers.

“It has raised marketability of U.S. products,” Moon says. “We’ve seen a spike n goods being sold abroad.”

That doesn’t mean there are not problems with international trade, Moon says. Two of the biggest are countries artificially supporting their currency and the counterfeiting of intellectual property.

Free trade agreements are designed level the economic playing field as far as currency holding a true value and equal duties, or taxes, on goods.

“We don’t need a duty placed on our exports when we don’t do the same,” Moon says. “There have to be rules of conduct and interchange.”

The protection of intellectual property rights could stand some improvement.

“We’ve had members come to us and say they saw a product with their name on it that they didn’t send over there,” Moon says. “There has to be better enforcement.”

With new economies burgeoning, like those of Eastern Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America, cooperation among trading partners is crucial.

“Those countries weren’t players 15 years ago, but they are now,” Moon says. “We have to work together.”

Contact MBJ staff writer Clay Chandler at clay.chandler@ msbusiness.com .

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