News Column

The Struggle for Sales Overseas

November 2002, HISPANIC BUSINESS Magazine

Joel Russell


View the 2002 Hispanic Business Top 50 Exporters

"Iíve been doing this 40 years, and Iíve seen a lot of roller-coaster rides, but this last drop was the deepest Iíve ever seen," says Rufino "Ed" Vega, CEO of Future Packaging. Mr. Vega refers to the state of exporting over the last 18 months, a period in which tightened borders, rising costs, and downsizing customers have hurt international trade.

On a national scale, the trend is clear: During the first seven months of 2002, the United States exported $559.9 billion worth of goods and services, down 8 percent from the same period in 2001, which came in 1 percent lower than 2000ís record performance.

But even in this downturn, overseas sales for the Hispanic Business Top 50 Exporters grew in 2001 to a total of $1.3 billion, a 37.7 percent increase compared to the previous year.

All of the increase came from the largest exporters on the list Ė No. 1 Brightstar Corp. and No. 2 Pharmed Group (see directory on pp. 38Ė39). These two Florida-based companies increased their exports by a combined $418 million between 2000 and 2001.

Aside from those stellar gains and a handful of others on the directory, downward pressure hurt most of the Top 50 Exporters. More than half of the companies on the directory reported zero or negative export growth in 2001. Mr. Vega, whose company crates and ships high-tech equipment from Californiaís Silicon Valley, saw his foreign income drop 44 percent, for example. Future Packaging ranks number 20 among the Top 50 Exporters.

Remedios Diaz Oliver, CEO of All-American Containers, hopes the current downturn will lead to a renewed effort by policy-makers to improve the exporting odds.

"I export bottles into Central America, and [the buyers] pay 30 percent duties to get them out of customs. When Central American manufacturers sell into the United States, they have no duties. So we immediately have a 30 percent disadvantage. For years I have contacted senators in Washington about this, but so far nothing," she complains. "If we can get that issue straightened out, we are in a position to compete."

Top 50 Exporter Methodology
Research Supervisor J. Tabin Cosio and Research Assistant Michael Caplinger gathered data for the Top 50 Exporter directory from the Hispanic Business Company Profile form, which appeared in the magazineís December 2001 issue. Company Profile forms also were mailed to more than 14,000 Hispanic-owned companies in the United States.

Companies included among the Top 50 must show at least 51 percent ownership by Hispanic U.S. citizens and must have headquarters in one of the 50 states or Washington, D.C. Companies must submit revenue figures and indicate what percentage of total revenues come from foreign customers. Nonprofit organizations, advertising and public relations agencies, and companies based in Puerto Rico are not eligible.


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