On Monday, Brad Caserta met with two company chief executives he thought were too big to give him the time of day.
Caserta was in Mexico City, representing Huntington-based Steel of West Virginia.
“Sitting down and meeting with the executives of that caliber of companies was pretty amazing,” Caserta said. “They gave me an hour and didn’t even push me out the door.”
Steel of West Virginia is one of nine Mountain State companies on an export trip to Mexico led by the West Virginia Development Office’s International Division. The development office coordinated with the U.S. Commercial Service of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Enybe Diaz, a West Virginia Commerce international trade representative on the trip, said the U.S. Commerce Department is providing the West Virginia business delegation with the services they on the trip. The department has offices in Mexico’s three largest markets: Mexico City, Monterrey and Guadalajara.
Diaz sees Mexico as a nation full of business opportunities. In 2012, West Virginia exported $239 million worth of goods to Mexico, according to the West Virginia Commerce Department.
“Exports bring a lot of good things to companies,” Diaz said. “If companies have a good market in the U.S., then they probably have markets in other countries too.”
Diaz hopes the companies on the export trip increase sales and profit while growing with newly developed business relationships.
“These types of trade missions have become a very successful part of our strategy to increase West Virginia’s presence in the global market. The missions provide West Virginia business owners with the opportunity to meet face-to-face with international executives who are interested in their products,” West Virginia Secretary of Commerce Keith Burdette said in a press release. “We’ve seen great results from these missions in the past, and I look forward to hearing about what they accomplish over the next several days.”
The state’s commerce department takes two to four export trips a year, Diaz said.
West Virginia exports are on the rise.
In 2000, exports accounted for 5.4 percent of the state’s gross domestic product, and by 2012, it was 16.3 percent of the state’s GDP, according to the 2014 West Virginia Economic Outlook.
“It’s a very fast and secure way to make contacts,” Diaz added.
Participating businesses are Eagle Manufacturing, of Brooke County; Tecnocap and Leveltek International, from Marshall County; Nippon Tungsten, Special Metals Corporation and Steel of West Virginia, of Cabell County; Sur-Loc Flooring, of Jefferson County and the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, from Kanawha County.
West Virginia Chamber of Commerce President Steve Roberts said exports are a very important part of the state’s economy.
“We have an array of exporting companies that range from large companies producing coal and chemicals to small, locally owned companies who have a significant portion of sales being exports,” Roberts said.
In addition to Canada, Roberts views Mexico as one of America’s most important trade partners.
“We are eager to expand markets for West Virginia’s exporters and view export and trade promotion as an important component of doing that.”
Mexico is the ninth-largest export destination for West Virginia products, according to the West Virginia Commerce Department.
Caserta said the trip isn’t over yet, but he’s surprised by how smoothly his company has made a first step into an enticing market.
“Some of the products we are trying to push right now, we don’t have any exports to Mexico,” Caserta said.
The company manufactures steel beams, channels and special shape sections. They also make guardrail posts and light steel rails used as supply lines in the mining industry.
“I’m hoping they have a need for our product,” Caserta said. “And I’m hoping I can stay competitive in an international market and sell it.”
Reach Caitlin Cook at email@example.com, 304-348-5113 or follow @caitlincookWV on Twitter.