News Column

Markets Across the Ocean

Aug. 11, 2011

Broos Campbell, Staff Writer

Juan Verde at the U.S. Department of Commerce offers hopeful news for the export trade, which should brighten outlooks for the 50 Hispanic-owned companies topping HispanicBusiness magazine's leading exporters list.

"Exporters overall have been doing very well since the recession," Mr. Verde says in a phone call to HispanicBusiness magazine. "Most countries that export heavily have been able to bounce back faster from the economic crisis all over the world." He cites Germany as an example. "Their exports count for about 40 percent of their GDP," he says. "They're doing quite well."

Mr. Verde is deputy assistant secretary for Europe and Eurasia. U.S. exports are about 11 percent of GDP, he says, but that's changing for the better. The National Export Initiative (NEI), announced in 2010, aims to double U.S. exports from $1.57 trillion in 2009 to $3.14 trillion in 2015. "I'm very happy to report that we're actually tracking very well toward that goal," Mr. Verde says.

The U.S. has to maintain exports growth of 14 percent or more a year just to stay on track. Last year''s growth was about 17.5 percent, Mr. Verde says, "the largest year-to-year percentage change in over 20 years."

Leading the Way
The top three exporters on the list were Quirch Foods Co., of Miami; Precision Trading Corp., of Miami Gardens, Fla.; and HUSCO International Inc., of Waukesha, Wis. Each had 2010 export sales in excess of $100 million.

Quirch Foods topped the list with export sales of $210 million. The distributor/ exporter of meat and seafood products -- which go to Mexico, Central America, Colombia and the Dominican Republic -- had total revenues of $612.2 million in 2010, of which 34.3 percent came from its exports.

Precision Trading, No. 2 on the list, exports consumer electronics and housewares to Venezuela, Brazil, Colombia and Central America. It had export sales of $120 million in 2010, which represented 70.6 percent of its 2010 revenues of $170 million.

HUSCO exports hydraulic and electrohydraulic controls for off-highway applications to Germany, England, India and Brazil. It had export sales of $112 million in 2010, representing 45 percent of its 2010 revenues of $250 million.

Most of the companies on the list export their goods and services to Central and South American countries. In terms of growing export revenues, Mr. Verde said the emphasis should be focused on new-to-market companies rather than on companies that are new to exporting. That means going to exporters and asking: "If you guys are now exporting to Mexico, also export to Europe?" Mr. Verde says.

By the Numbers
Half of the HispanicBusiness 2011 Top 50 Exporters are based in Florida, where revenues seemed to sag from $1.7 billion last year to $643.7 million this year. That's misleading, however. Global services company Brightstar Corp. went into a quiet period in April as it prepared for an initial public offering, leaving it unable to report its figures.

Texas had five exporters on the list, with 2010 export sales of $65 million; California and Illinois had three each, with sales of $20.4 million and $16 million by state; and Georgia, New Jersey, Virginia and Michigan had two each, with combined sales of $50.2 million.

By sector, wholesalers won with combined sales in 2010 of $563.2 million, for an average among the 17 firms of $33.1 million -- which also makes it the top sector by average. Manufacturing placed second with 12 representatives whose combined sales came to $182.8 million, for an average of $15.2 million. The energy sector showed at third place with $41.5 million in sales among the two companies.

The wholesale sector dominates the list, as ever, accounting for 59.2 percent of total export revenues. That's down from 83.4 percent last year. The difference seems even more dramatic in strict dollar terms, with sales dropping from $3.8 billion in 2006 to $951 million this year -- but, again, that reflects Brightstar's absence from the mix. The number of wholesale firms is down as well, from 24 in 2009 to 17 this year.

The number of listed companies that showed an increase in export sales is up: 29 on this year's list, compared to just 17 on last year's. The fastest-growing was CAPE Inc., of Atlanta, which jumped from $6.5 million in 2009 to $25.2 million in 2010, for sales growth of 287.7 percent. The Plaza Group Inc. saw an increase in export sales of 134.8 percent, from $12.4 million in 2009 to $29 million in 2010.

For the nation overall, "The transportation sector is doing quite well," Mr. Verde says. Tourism, which the Commerce Department counts as an export, and clean technology are also making promising noises.

Rowing Together
Hispanic companies are almost twice as likely as their non-Hispanic counterparts to be exporters, Mr. Verde says. Language and cultural ties to other countries are part of the reason, but more than that: "Hispanic companies tend to be a lot more dynamic and willing to roll with the punches and face challenges that other companies wouldn't."

Only about 1 percent of U.S. companies are exporters, according to Mr. Verde. Of those, more than half export to one market, usually Canada or Mexico. Fortunately, there's lots of room for growth. According to the September 2010 "Report to the President on the National Export Initiative," 95 percent of consumers live outside the U.S. -- and when U.S. companies compete abroad, Mr. Verde says, they tend to win. "Hispanic companies do even better," he adds.

"(This) is the very first time in our history that exports have become the priority of all agencies that deal with international trade," Mr. Verde says. That means getting all the federal agencies that deal with international trade to cooperate. "In order for us to double exports, we're going to have to have everybody row in the same direction."

It's a tall order, but it seems to be working.

"Absolutely," says Mr. Verde. "(Exporters) are doing very well, and particularly the Hispanic community."

Source: (c) 2011. All rights reserved.

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