By JACK WEATHERLY
“Had we not gone international, I don’t think we’d be here today,” said Wayne Wade, president of Bio Soil Enhancers Inc. of Hattiesburg.
His testimony and Gov. Phil Bryant’s touting the successes of doing business overseas were the highlights of the Governor’s 2015 Export Summit on Thursday at the Jackson Convention Center.
Bio Soil nearly went out of business after Hurricane Katrina destroyed the company’s plant in 2005, Wade told the gathering.
Meantime, the company changed its emphasis as it rose from the rubble. Instead of using microbes to clean up commercial and municipal waste, the company developed a new product called Sumagrow, which balances and stabilizes the fertility of soil, Wade said.
“It’s a combination of microbes and humic acid, basically,” he added later in an interview.
After the company turned the corner on the business model, the Mississippi Development Authority opened doors to the international market for it, he said.
The first trip was to Canada, which opened the little company’s eyes, Wade said.
That was followed by trips to Latin American countries, which continued the Bio Soil expansion. “Since then, we’ve been all over,” he said. Vietnam is currently the firm’s biggest customer, he said.
Of the MDA program, he said, “It’s just awesome. It cost us very little . . . and they vet your potential clients, they vet them well. They set the meetings up, they provide the transportation, they provide the interpreters, they provide the security.”
Bryant said that “exporting is no harder than sales anywhere, it’s just a longer flight,” adding that Mississippi’s exports have grown 380 percent in the past 10 years.
However, the state’s exports dropped to $11.4 billion in 2014 from $12.4 billion in 2013, according to the U.S. Commerce Department in a March report.
The U.S. trade deficit in March jumped to its highest level since October 2008. The imbalance is primarily due to the strong U.S. dollar, which makes exports more expensive while being a boon to U.S. consumers.
The Obama administration is pushing for the establishment of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which has drawn the interest of 12 nations. The agreement would drop tariffs and otherwise facilitate trade, though some have criticized it for favoring corporations over workers.
Sixty percent of Bio Soil’s sales will be international for calendar 2015, Wade predicted, adding that in a 12-month period starting now the figure will be about 80 percent. Bio Soil has 28 full-time employees compared with five in 2010. “We have some of the brightest young scientists in he world, and we continue to hire them.”
“We’re building new offices so we can hire more people.”
The private company’s sales in 2013 were $7.8 million, and have grown “significantly,” he said.
“We’re one country away from being unable to keep up with demand,” Wade said.
Arable land in the world is shrinking, he said. Thus, “you can make a significant difference by reaching out,” Wade said.