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State exports hit $5 billion; Canada leads in manufacturing imports.

ABOUT $5 BILLION IN ARKANsas products and services are exported annually to 142 countries. But discovering the value of any Arkansas company's exports is almost impossible to determine.

The Department of Commerce maintains only general information on products shipped out of the country, according to Lon Hardin, the district director of the Department of Commerce in Little Rock.

There is no detailed data available on which companies are exporting those products or services. And most businesses don't want to reveal financial information on exports for competitive reasons.

The Arkansas Industrial Development Commission uses Department of Commerce figures to determine how much Arkansas manufacturing companies export to each country. Arkansas Business has used this data for its first list of Destinations of Arkansas Exports.

In 1992, more than $1.4 billion in Arkansas manufactured products were exported. The largest region for Arkansas exports was North America, which imported $498 million in Arkansas manufacturing products. More Arkansas products were shipped to Canada than any other country in the world.

But the AIDC works only with manufacturers and has no information on exporting by non-manufacturers and service companies. According to Hardin, some of the largest non-manufacturing exporters in Arkansas would include Systematics Information Services Inc., Arkansas Systems Inc., TCBY Enterprises Inc. and even Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which exports its technological and computer expertise to its operations outside the country.

Arkansas Systems, a Little Rock-based software company, recently announced an agreement to provide its financial software to China's banking system. Arkansas Systems already exports its software to 43 other countries.

Even the government's figures on exporting can be inaccurate. Hardin recalls a conversation he had a few years ago with an executive at Seasons Inc., the Little Rock-based manufacturer of potpourri.

"He asked me how much potpourri was exported to The Netherlands," Hardin says. "I checked our |DOC~ figures and told him. He told me that couldn't be right because Seasons exported more than that by itself."

Overseas Offices

The AIDC has overseas offices in Brussels, Tokyo and Taipei to help promote Arkansas companies and products. But Charles Sloan, the AIDC's director of marketing, says the agency seldom assists large exporters such as Tyson Foods Inc., which probably has more employees dedicated to exporting than the AIDC does.

"We work with small and medium-sized companies that need help in knowing what to do to begin exporting," Sloan says. "We can work with them for their first year or two, then let them take it on their own."

Catherine Janosky, chief executive officer of Global Manufacturing Inc. in Little Rock, says that sometimes companies expect too much from the AIDC.

"They are very good at helping companies that are new in exporting," Janosky says. "But when you get into exporting, it takes a lot of hard work. I think companies get delusions of grandeur and think AIDC will do all the work. They can help, but it's up to the company to do the hard work."

Global Manufacturing has been exporting industrial vibrators for 20 years. The company makes the hydraulic, pneumatic and electric vibrators as well as an air blaster. Some uses for those products are to restore material flow in silos, unload ships and consolidate concrete, Janosky says.

Global's products are regularly exported to 15-20 countries, including Mexico, Venezuela, Argentina, Canada, Denmark, England, Australia, Taiwan, Japan, Sweden, China, South Korea and Finland, Janosky says.

The recent passing of the North American Free Trade Agreement has generated interest from Arkansas companies wanting to export, says Joe O'Brien, who owns International Management Services, a management consulting firm in Little Rock. "I've talked with two Arkansas companies that want to look at the opportunities," O'Brien says. "Before |NAFTA passed~, they were a little intimidated. They had heard a lot of generalizations that made them afraid to explore the market. Now they recognize that it's as cheap to fly to Mexico City is it is to L.A. or New York."
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Title Annotation:Arkansas Business Rankings; Arkansas
Author:Smith, David (American novelist)
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Jan 10, 1994
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