A well-known Mississippi company is now serving a far-reaching customer base and was honored for its exporting efforts. Viking Range Corporation of Greenwood was presented the Governor’s Exporter of the Year Award during the Gulf Coast Trade Alliance’s World Trade Conference in Biloxi.
The award was presented by Gray Swoope, executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority, to Dale Persons, Viking’s vice president of corporate development. Viking Range Corporation has been engaged in the international marketing and sales of premium home appliances for more than 20 years.
“We are delighted and pleasantly surprised to receive this award. We’re always proud to be a Mississippi company and enjoy working with MDA,” Persons said. “On behalf of Viking Range team members around the world, thank you for recognizing our efforts.”
He continued by saying that Viking is not merely trying to reach more countries in the world. “We focus on the quality of our products and recognition of our brand,” he said. “When our products are exported, it’s good for people to say ‘that was made in Mississippi.’”
Viking had an increase in exports this past year, but Persons would not divulge the numbers. The company is expanding to more countries, but looking for the right ones at the right times. Aside from the U.S. and Canada, Viking now has 50 distributors and is shipping products to 80 countries. It all began in 1987 on a limited scale, then picked up and began in earnest in 1990.
“We fielded calls and then got an export agent,” he said. “We’re finding the right customers to carry our brand.”
A big portion of those customers are being found in the markets of China, Indonesia and India where there are growth and large population bases. “It takes a while to get established,” Persons said. “We’re very brand conscious, and want to make sure our products s are taken care of. We introduce new products here first to establish and tweak them.”
To be considered for the Exporter of the Year Award, companies must demonstrate optimal export management success by any variety of activities including the following: a major increase in export sales; a breakthrough in a particular competitive market; the introduction of a new product into export trade; and, successful response to a foreign market challenge. The winner is chosen by the awards committee of the Mississippi District Export Council.
Gov. Haley Barbour said, “The strength of Mississippi’s export market is due in large part to innovative companies such as Viking. I commend Fred Carl and the employees of Viking Range for their continued commitment to excellence. Together, they’ve truly earned this award.”
Persons sees more exporting in Viking Range’s future. “As the economy was becoming more global, we felt we should start and not wait,” he said. “We have some experience under our belt, and we will work on growing our list of distributors into expanding markets. Everyone has to think globally now.”
Exporting to a world market presents a different set of challenges that include different economies moving at different speeds, gaining necessary approvals; changing currency rates and testing.
“The Viking gospel is that the foundation is good. We have a quality base and promote the Viking life that includes going on culinary tours,” Persons said. “We are the largest purveyor of cooking schools in the country. We also sell cutlery and cooking utensils. People believe in the lifestyle and brand. It doesn’t stop when you take it home. It’s the whole experience.”
Viking Range, with 1,600 employees worldwide, has had substantial growth on a regular basis. Persons expects that trend to continue with an expanding product line and markets. The company has a larger selection of sizes of products now that gives homeowners more replacement options. There are range sizes to fit in smaller kitchens, too.
Swoope said many firms were considered for this year’s award, but Viking’s impeccable track record in exporting made the company a stand out. “It is a brand recognized around the world,” he said. “The impact Viking has had on Mississippi’s economy is also remarkable, and combined with many other factors that were taken into consideration, Viking is an excellent choice.”
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynn Lofton at email@example.com.