By CALLIE DANIELS BRYANT
Mississippi exports around $11 billion internationally, and the Mississippi Development Authority’s International Trade Office director Rose Boxx wants to increase those numbers.
“In my opinion,” she said, “Mississippi has fared very well internationally. We have a very aggressive trade promotion program in our state, especially considering the size of Mississippi in comparison to other Southern states. Our administration’s leadership and support have been very instrumental in growing our programs and expansion globally. We have one shared vision and that is to tell our story around the world.
“Every foreign official we welcome in Mississippi is amazed at the products and technology the state has to offer. We must show off the accomplishments made by our state from all angles and perspectives, relentlessly. After all, there is a big world out there with more than 95 percent of population and consumers outside of the U.S.”
Now with MDA for 19 years, Boxx oversees the development and implementation of the agency’s international business programs and services. She has traveled to over 50 countries with Mississippian businesses and government officials, and has worked with her team to host at least 10 international trips annually. She and her team also regularly organize educational summits and seminars on trade as well as customized consultations with Mississippian businesses.
Boxx described an average work day as either in office, traveling across Mississippi or abroad.
“If I’m in the office,” she said, “I’m usually supervising operations in the international trade office, overseeing our financial resources for potential exporters via our STEP Grant, managing our team of trade managers and preparing for the next business trip.
She added that preparing for upcoming trips on behalf of Mississippi takes a large part of her workdays.
“Much planning is required when leading officials and businessmen and women on trade missions around the globe to meet with prospective buyers, distributors, and governmental organizations in order to increase their company’s sales and Mississippi exports,” Boxx said.
She also conducts international conference calls with foreign diplomatic offices, government entities, and business consultants in various parts of the world. She has welcomed a number of international delegates to Mississippi.
“Trade,” she said, “to be successful must be mutual and bilateral. Sometimes we go to them, sometimes they come to us.”
“Each trade mission is an opportunity to establish collaborative trade initiatives, to promote the state as a trade partner, an investment destination and logistical hub,” Boxx said, “—an opportunity to understand the market needs and consumption trends which always lead to trade.”
She and her team are the first to assist many companies in international marketing for both new and established exporters.
“We, this office, has developed a series of contacts around the world that connect our sellers to the buyers almost anywhere in the world, and I mean everywhere. We have facilitators who can do this on every continent: Africa, South America, Australia, Mexico, Canada (North America), Asia, the Middle East. If a company says, ‘We have a product and I want to export this – what can you do for me?’ We will do the research, advise and locate facilitators in those countries to connect our companies to buyers. That’s the most valuable piece in our program because you might have small companies that wouldn’t or couldn’t know where to begin since 95 percent of the world lives outside of the U.S. so how do we sell to them? Let us do the research and find the marketing tools, contacts, and so on to help you sell your products abroad or at least introduce your products to those markets,” she said.
Her proudest accomplishment is her President’s E Award for excellence in trade services which she received alongside her “extremely active and aggressive” trade team.
“This is a reflection not only of the remarkable companies and products we have in Mississippi, but a reflection of our team: hardworking passionate individuals with extensive international expertise,” she said.
Her goal for 2019 is to lead a yearly trade mission to at least one new international market.
“Visiting a new market benefits not only our exporters, but increases the visibility of our state in general. In 2019, we will lead a trade mission for the first time to Belgium and the Netherlands; both markets are presently in Mississippi’s top 10 trading partners.”
Canada leads as Mississippi’s first importer, followed by Panama, Mexico, China, Belgium, Netherlands, Guatemala, Honduras, and Japan.
Boxx said the biggest challenges to her work is that the world is constantly evolving, requiring her to keep track while advising Mississippi businesses on new domestic and international trade tariffs, regulations, and policies so she can recommend which exports for the state to pursue annually. She remains informed through international news, keenly aware that political conditions affect economies.
“Our office is a member of several trade-related entities whose main goal is to inform trade professions in the U.S. and abroad on trade news and discuss trade issues. I serve on the board of some of those entities. I also attend trade events in D.C. on a regular basis,” Boxx said.
She added, “The topic of tariffs is, of course, the most discussed topic currently and has an effect not only on Mississippi and our businesses locally, but globally as well. Our office stays on top of daily updates from the federal government in order to provide guidance to exporters.”
Currently, Mississippi exports to nearly 170 countries and Boxx said her department currently works with 200 companies. Among those companies are manufacturers, service providers, and industry sections like machinery, aerospace, defense, agriculture, automotive, and construction to name a few. According to Boxx, Mississippi’s biggest exports are oil, gas and machinery.
When asked what the state should export more of, Boxx replied: “services and technology.”
She said, “Services is different than manufactured goods, which are a tangible piece of equipment compared to a service such as a software service, perhaps engineered services. Europe is a competitive and advanced market, (exported) technology and services will benefit from this a lot.”
Rose Boxx comes to this position naturally from her childhood traveling across the world because of her father’s position with Bristol Meyers Squibb, a multinational pharmacy company that relocated the family every few years.
Her first country was Peru, then Venezuela, and Columbia, then Chile. The traveling marked the beginning of her international aspirations.
“It was in Chile that I decided I wanted to learn a second language,” Boxx said. “I thought I’d to go the States and that it would help with my international career path. I came to Mississippi in 1990 to enroll at University of Southern Mississippi. I came to study English as a second language and after a year I fell in love with the States – the hospitality, the people, just the small-medium sized environment I really enjoyed because I lived in all the capitals of the countries with millions of people. Coming to Mississippi was very becoming for me. I stayed for my degree, then I moved to Tupelo, got married, and I stayed. I’ve made a home here.”
Boxx holds an undergraduate degree in Journalism from the University of Southern Mississippi as well as MBA from Belhaven University.
She wanted to utilize her language skills and knowledge of other cultures for business purposes. A position with MDA as the South American trade manager opened, and she applied.
“Having a second language and travel experience helped me get the position,” Boxx said. “During my tenure with MDA, I’ve had various positions in the International Trade Office. It has been a blast; to say that I love my job is an understatement!”
She has worked as a bureau manager in the Trade Office and as a senior trade specialist for Latin America and Caribbean, and prior to international trade, Boxx was a community assistance specialist in the Community Services Division of MDA.
Boxx said, “As a public servant, it has been a privilege to serve Mississippi in this capacity. I often say we are the bridge between our local businesses and government and the world.”
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