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Lupe Perez, bakery manager and Jeff Flathau , Vice President, inspect a fresh batch of key lime snaps at Flathaus fine foods

Makers of cookies and coaxial cable among export award winners

By JACK WEATHERLY 

Flathau’s Fine Foods’ exports of its cookies and cheese straws are growing at between 5 percent and 10 percent a year.

Chile is the Petal-based company’s biggest overseas customer, according to founder Jeff Flathau.

It was one of six Mississippi companies recognized for achievements at the Governor’s Awards for Excellence in Exporting Aug. 26 at the Jackson Convention Complex.

The Mississippi Development Authority facilitated a meeting between Flathau’s and a Chilean businessman at a Miami trade show a few years ago, said Flathau (pronounced flat-OH).

“The trade barriers are low for us,” he said.

He started a catering business 20 years ago, and with the active participation of his wife, Heather, they branched out into making cookies, he said.

In big retailers, such as Wal-Mart, the cookies – which are a combination of snap cookie and candy in five flavors – are marketed as Maddy’s Sweet Shop.

Cheese straws stand to be the next big mover, he said. “We’ve signed an agreement with Tabasco,” packaging of which will carry the logo of the famous Louisiana hot sauce maker, McIlhenny.

“The Tabasco name has a lot of clout,” he said, adding that he hopes to have the new straws on the market by Nov. 1.

Flathau’s annual revenue is about $1.5 million excluding catering, he said. There are 16 full-time employees.

Exports make up about 9 percent of its revenue. Its other foreign customers are in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, China, Japan and Europe.

Trilogy Communications of Pearl, maker of coaxial cable for wireless communications, is a third-time winner of the Governor’s Award.

The company has an exclusive contract with Codelco, Chile’s state-owned operator of copper mines.

Codelco, has the ability to communicate with miners through Trilogy’s technology, whether in normal daily operations or in emergencies, said Trilogy Chief Executive Ryan Cole.

Codelco assisted in the 69-day rescue effort in the cave-in of a mine owned by another company in 2010, which trapped 33 Chilean miners and inspired the movie “The 33.”

The Codelco contract was largely responsible for the doubling of Trilogy’s foreign contribution to overall revenue, to 10 percent from 5 percent.

Mining applications in Canada are another significant contributor, Cole said, adding that the company does business with U.S. mine operators.

A trip with MDA officials last year to Israel led to Trilogy deals in the Middle Eastern nation’s security.

Other winners were Bio Soil Enhancers, which is based in Hattiesburg and produces Sumagrow, which balances and stabilizes the fertility of soil.

Bio Soil did not return a call for information on its performance this year, for which it was recognized for its expansion.

Kasai North America of Madison, which makes auto trim parts, won its first Governor’s Award.

Belmont-based Wood Industries, which makes air compressors and air tools, was recognized again. RBR Enterprises of Byhalia, which manufactures motorized equipment to distribute fertilizer and chemicals, was named in the new-to-export category.

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