News Column

Going the Distance

Page 2 of 3

For Miami-based Bermello Ajamil & Partners Inc., whose roots are in Florida, business opportunities have sprung up sporadically in Latin America, but the company's real focus is now a half-world away at ports in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (See related story on Page 48).

"No company has the luxury of defining itself too narrowly," says Ray Fernandez, who oversees architecture at the firm's New York office. "Economies change and we, like everyone else, have learned to adapt."

Location, Location, Location
The majority of the top Hispanic-owned exporters are monitoring the world from a key location Florida.

Companies from the Sunshine State continue to dominate our list, although there were four fewer Florida companies this year (23) than last. Still, the $3.5 billion in exporting revenues from Florida account for 92 percent of the total exporting revenues on the list, thanks in large part to Brightstar.

Texas was second on this list with six companies, while California and Illinois tied for third with four apiece. (SEE By State Chart below.)

The rest of the Top 50 suggests new trends as other states made rare appearances, including North Carolina, South Carolina, Colorado, and Arizona. There are 15 states represented this year, compared to 10 last year.

Only one company in our top eight HUSCO International of Waukesha, Wisconsin is located outside of Florida. HUSCO, a manufacturer of hydraulics and electrohydraulics used for vehicles in the building infrastructure, maintained its No. 3 spot on the list, and its $100 million in export sales, by continuing to do almost half of its business abroad

A weak dollar has helped European sales and research and development costs, much of it incurred in India, "but it's also a problem when we want to purchase components abroad," says Jim Gannon, HUSCO's CFO and executive vice-president.

The wholesale sector is the overwhelming leader on the list, claiming 23 of the 50 companies and accounting for 92 percent of the total exporting revenues for the list. (SEE By Sector Chart below.)

The makeup of the Top 50 Exporters, compared to last year's list, shows many similarities. Most notably, the top four companies Brightstar, Quirch Foods, HUSCO, and Precision Trading finished in the same order. Among all the companies on this year's list, on average 46.8 percent of their revenues came from exports, essentially even with the previous year's 45.6 percent. But growth in overall export sales revenue was down, from the 58.6 percent seen between 2004 and 2005 to 42.6 percent from 2005 to 2006.

The exporters on the 2007 list reported sales from exports of more than $3.82 billion. That's a 48.3 percent increase from the top 50 companies on the 2006 list, whose exports reached nearly $2.58 billion. While that's a huge jump, most of it comes from the rapid export growth of the No. 1 company on the list both years, Brightstar.

Survival Struggles
The importance of exports to individual companies varies across the list.

Lopez Foods Inc., an Oklahoma-based company that ranks 34th on our list, generates less than 1 percent of its revenue from exports and there are no plans to try and increase that number. It also imports a small amount of lean beef from Australia.

The company, a provider of sausage to McDonald's, sends small sausage shipments to Hong Kong. "By the time we deal with tariffs and compete with inexpensive labor, we've lost any price advantage we might have otherwise," says Ed Sanchez, president and CEO. "From all indications, we will continue to be a domestic operation."

But Andes Chemical Corp., which is No. 6 on our Top 50 Exporters, is a 20-year-old Miami company whose business depends entirely on exporting. CEO Fernando Espinoza says Asian producers are now able to match and sometimes beat American-based companies' prices even after paying transocean freight costs.

"Don't ask me how they do it, but they're undercutting us on some goods," says Mr. Espinoza, whose firm's exports of 2,000 chemical epoxy and resin products rose 7.8 percent to $34.78 million in 2006. The lesson, he says, is that seemingly small details such as currency fluctuations and tariff changes can make "all the difference in the world."

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