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Exporting helps Northern firms survive the slow domestic market.

Exporting products to foreign markets is helping several Northern Ontario businesses stay ahead of the recession.

These businesses admit that exporting is a risky business, but they say the benefits greatly outweigh the risks.

Exporting is an activity all companies should consider, according to Ross Bennett, manager of the Technology Transfer Centre at Laurentian University in Sudbury.

"You should always be looking at exporting because certain markets go stagnant," Bennett explains. "If you don't trade internationally, you get behind, like the Soviet Union did. You end up laying off people in an industry and buying from them (other countries).

"When you look at Northern Ontario, we are a classic example of this," he stresses.

However, Jean-Guy Tardif, the manager of information services with External Affairs Canada, warns that many companies make the mistake of tackling exporting because times are tough in the local market.

"To have a long-term presence in the market you must have a commitment to the market your in. " Tardif says. "If a company is unable to make it in Sudbury, it won't make it internationally."

Helen Gillespie, executive vice-president of Canadian Shield Spring Water of Sault Ste. Marie, says there are "great benefits" to exporting.

"You have a greater marketability (of your product) with access to larger markets. To be in Northern Ontario and have access to the U.S. market is tremendous," she says.

Canadian Shield started exporting water from a local, natural artesian spring in 1986. By January of this year 98 per cent of the company's sales were in the US.

Jacqueline Saville of Alex Wilson Coldstream in Dryden recommends that fledgling exporters exercise caution when undertaking new markets.

"Yes, they (export benefits) do outweigh the risks, but you have to tread carefully," advises Saville, the managing director of the rapidly growing graphic arts and printing company.

Alex Wilson's primary products - placemats, restaurant tray liners and process-color brochures - are competing in such export markets as Asia, Europe and the United States.

Alan Ratcliffe, sales manager with Miller Technology Inc. of North Bay, says exporting is definitely a good way to increase business.

"We have gained two very solid customers through exporting," he says.

Miller Technology began operating 13 years ago and has been expanded three times since then. The company manufactures rubber-mounted mine vehicles designed to perform a variety of tasks unique to the mining industry.

While Miller Technology's main clients are in Northern Ontario, northwestern Quebec and the northern United States, the company also sells vehicles to clients in Mexico, Spain, Japan and New Guinea.


One common mistake made by many exporters is being too ambitious, warns Ratcliffe.

"They try to bite off more than they can chew. You have got to be prepared," he suggests.

Gillespie and Saville report that knowledge of the export market and local competition is vital to success.

"We attend regional and national shows," explains Saville. "We have representatives across the U.S., and we do a fair bit of travel ourselves."

George Masters, president of Seamless Cylinders International of Sault Ste. Marie, reports that his company has an elaborate strategy for opening new export markets.

"Our initial venture is to identify a potential market. Then we select a trade exhibition or fair in that area," says Masters. "By visiting a fair in England, let's say, you meet most of the potential European customers."


Bennett advises first-time exporters not to be discouraged if they fail to make a sale on their first attempt in a market.

"The biggest single thing is the risk that someone is not going to buy from you the first time," he says. "You should have a lot of capital or a really good product that will sell itself."

Product quality and guaranteed delivery, meanwhile, are essential to maintaining an export business, says Masters.

"The only risk you run is the assurance of quality. You must be sure your quality comes in as specified," he says.

Seamless Cylinders, which supplies cylinders to North American extinguisher manufacturers, is aggressively pursuing markets in developing countries where local companies can assemble their own fire extinguishers according to local standards.


A very real risk faced by many exporters is that of not being paid. However, the federal Export Development Corporation (EDC) can insure an exporter for up to 90 per cent of the value of the contract.

"EDC's export insurance program is a must for exporters in the early stage," comments Gillespie. "It is expensive, but it is more expensive losing money."

Going through the EDC can be a nuisance, adds Saville. "But with chapter 11 in the U.S., we do it thoroughly as we can."
COPYRIGHT 1992 Laurentian Business Publishing, Inc.
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Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Northern Ontario
Author:Brown, Stewart
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Jun 1, 1992
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