Mayor pushes African exports effort
Wednesday, May 19, 2010 11:30 AM
Structural insulated panels manufactured at a facility in Neshoba County could be exported to Africa soon for housing, creating a significant number of new jobs here, officials said.
Max Ware, president of DuraSip at Union, will be traveling to New York soon to showcase his product after meeting with the president of the Allied African Nations Chamber of Commerce during a conference here last week arranged by Mayor James A. Young.
Anthony A. L. Adjasse, president and chief executive officer for the African Chamber, said he was very impressed with the DuraSip product.
"I never knew I'd see something like that here," he said.
Products, goods and services that companies in Neshoba and other Mississippi counties could export to countries in Africa were outlined at the conference by Adjasse and other officials in the historic train depot.
He was here at the invitation of Young after the two met earlier this year in New York City.
Adjasse said he knew that Mississippi was innovative, but to see Young as a mayor of one of its cities was very impressive.
"I told him, 'I want to talk to you about Africa,' " he said.
AANCC is a program sponsored by 17 developing African Nations, represented by their UN Mission Diplomatic Corps in New York.
The organization's goal is to bring business professional leaders together to share important economic insight by providing the latest information about commerce, industry, trade, agribusiness, investment projects and contracts with very viable and effective statistical data on the African Nations markets.
In 2009 alone, Mississippi exported $1.3 million in goods to Africa. This included mineral fuel and oil; fertilizers; tanning, dye, paint, putty; wood pulp; and vehicles and machinery, among other products.
"In Africa, we need everything," Adjasse said, citing such things as housing, education, hospital equipment, tourism, housing, and cosmetics, among others.
Transportation and housing are two major needs, he said.
After the conference, Ware spent time with Adjasse, discussing how his company's phenolic-fiberglass laminates, structural insulated panels, could be used to construct houses in many African countries.
"We generated a tremendous amount of very serious interest," Ware said. "He spent quite a bit of time with me and took back a number of photographs."
Ware will be joining Adjasse soon for further meetings in New York.
"He is going to introduce me to a number of influential African people. He is keenly interested in putting some of our houses and buildings in Africa. He sees it as an answer to the tremendous housing shortage there," Ware said.
He expects to travel to Africa over the next four months or so.
"I think we have an excellent, excellent shot at doing some export business with Africa," Ware said of DuraSip.
The fiberglass skins would be produced at the Union facility and exported out of the country, Ware said, creating a significant number of new jobs.
Another Neshoba County company expressing an interest in Africa after the conference was Thomasson Company, particularly in the area of railroad construction and infrastructure development.
Walt Rudolph, business developer for Thomasson, said he was impressed with the conference and plans to follow up with the African officials.
"It was kinda shocking to have somebody from Africa come to Philadelphia, Miss.," Rudolph said. "It's an inexpensive way for us to try to develop business in another country. Africa is expanding significantly and they are doing a lot of utility infrastructure development. We are always quoting on projects that specify Southern yellow pine poles for electricity transmission projects. This will be a good way for Thomasson to definitely explore more opportunities and to develop new business in Africa."
Mayor Young said he was extremely pleased with how the conference went with the African officials.
"We are trying to get our industries involved in some international trade," Young said. "Thomasson has set the standards in our area for trading with South America and with other entities. We know it's not easy but they have to create another market for their products if our companies are going to succeed in this market."
Young said he was glad to have officials from the Mississippi Development Authority, Global Business Division, at the conference on Thursday to answer questions.
"They were here to help alleviate some fears that may be there in some of our companies," Young said.
Adjasse and others from the African Chamber are expected to return to Philadelphia in the near future, he said.
"He wants to come here to reach the other areas of the state. We are just trying to let Philadelphia be the hub and hopefully they will set up an office or some form of venue to do business with Mississippi from Philadelphia."
Young said he was very pleased to hear Adjasse compliment the city.
"They were very impressed with how clean our city is. We thanked them for that," the mayor said.