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August 1, 2003

4 Min Read
Industry Watch

Selling U.S. manufacturing overseas

IN SPITE OF THE “National” in NPE, the prominent presence of a globe in the National Plastics Exposition’s logo is an appropriate testimonial to its growing international flavor. This fact has not been lost on the U.S. Dept. of Commerce Commercial Service branch; it specifically targeted NPE 2003 as an opportunity for U.S. manufacturers to expand their export business.

With two programs designed to help generate export sales for U.S. companies—the International Buyer Program (IBP) and the Export Pavilion—the U.S. Commercial Service is making a concerted effort to raise awareness about itself within the ranks of American manufacturers, according to Lauree Valverde, a marketing specialist with the government agency.

“In certain cases, the government needs to market itself better,” Valverde says. “We need to reach out to manufacturers, and all U.S. companies, that are interested in exporting to let them know there’s a service available to them.”

For the purposes of NPE, Valverde says the IBP helped organize 25 foreign business delegations and tried to match their needs with products and services provided by interested U.S. companies. By designating themselves as exporters, companies were grouped with other exporters in the show directory and came up under exporter searches at the NPE website.

The Society of the Plastics Industry reported that 17 percent of the show’s registrants hailed from 109 countries, a statistic mirrored by the IBP delegations, from nations as diverse as Argentina, France, Russia, and Vietnam.

The Commercial Service’s second show effort, the U.S. Export pavilion, contained eight government agencies—each of which could aid companies interested in exporting.

“The great thing about the Export Pavilion is that it’s multiagency,” Valverde explains, “so you can see right there how many different agencies offer you assistance in each step of the export process.”

Valverde says the Export Pavilion is a new concept for the program, and although this was its first NPE, it already had a presence at eight trade shows last year. She says NPE, however, was the Pavilion’s strongest effort.

“We probably had 350 interested people in the booth,” Valverde says. “We didn’t just swipe their cards in order to give them something free. We talked to them for a few minutes. They were truly interested in what we do, and we’ll be following up with them.”

Valverde says if the U.S. Commercial Service had a mission statement, it would simply be to help U.S. companies increase their international sales. Even though the efforts have increased recently, this particular cause is apolitical.

“Every administration wants to help us keep jobs in the U.S.,” Valverde explains, “and to help U.S. companies grow. So no matter what the politics, we’re there at the grass roots level reaching out to American companies and trying to help them find buyers or distributors overseas.”

Short shots

A NEW REPORT POINTS to the aging baby boomer population as a significant catalyst for plastics’ growth within the medical device market. Estimating that the sector will consume almost 2.9 billion lb of resin by 2008, boomers’ health care needs will fuel an average annual growth rate of 4.3 percent, increasing the 2.2 billion lb of plastics processed by the North American market in 2002. The report estimates that disposable medical devices will account for 60 percent of materials during that time, with packaging using the remainder.

On Aug. 1, 2001, a struggling HPM Corp. (Mt. Gilead, OH) filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. (For an initial report, see “Taylor’s Hopes to Revive HPM,” September 2001 IMM.) At that time, it was reorganized as a division of Taylor’s Industrial Services LLC (Hobart, IN), and now HPM has completed the largest deal in its history, signing off on a 66-machine order with a Tier One automotive supplier. Delivery on the Freedom Series hydromechanical presses that range from 460 to 3000 tons will begin in Q3 2003 and continue for two years.

Although 13 of its businesses saw double-digit growth in earnings, General Electric Co. (Fairfield, CT) announced that Q2 earnings on the whole were off 14 percent, specifically citing difficulties with its plastics division. Revising its 2003 forecasts for the entire company due to the struggles of several units, including plastics, GE said raw material prices, the war in Iraq, and SARS impact in China affected resin sales.

With the completion date nearing, Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd. (Bolton, ON) continues to add products and services to its Shanghai Technical Center. (For an initial report, see “Husky Shanghais China,” January 2003 IMM.) A PET mold refurbishment center is the latest addition to the 110,000-sq-ft Asia-Pacific headquarters, which will be completed by Q1 2004. Prior to this, Asian bottle makers sent their PET molds to Canada for service. The refurbishment center joins product demonstrations, mold tests, systems integration, hot runner manufacturing, and spare parts distribution in Husky’s Shanghai facility.

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