Canadian Consul General Louise Blais was recently in Birmingham to discuss trade opportunities and learn more about one of Canada’s top customers in imports and exports. With 111,200 jobs in Alabama depending on trade and investment with Canada, Consulate Blais is making a strong effort to ensure the value of Canada’s relationship with Alabama and the U.S. is visible.
Blais toured Innovation Depot with its president and CEO, Devon Laney, and was asked what can be done to create more trade opportunities with Canada in the future. “There is a viable trade relationship with the U.S. that is not always highlighted,” Blais said. “Informing the public how essential imports and exports with Canada are for many of their jobs and the U.S. as a whole will reinforce the need for new trade avenues.”
Blais manages a six-state territory that includes Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. The state of Alabama exports $4.1 billion in goods to Canada annually in more than seven industries including transportation. Alabama imports $2 billion in goods from Canada annually. The U.S. also welcomes more tourists from Canada than from any other country.
“The goal now is to bring companies together to fully educate their employees about the Canadian companies and resources that are available here,” Blais said. “We’re doing things right in retention and growth, but the lack of awareness about the scope of the U.S. and Canada’s relationship is the biggest hindrance we have to overcome.”
Canadian companies that have operations in Birmingham include Magna International’s Kamtek, as well as Voestalpine Nortrak, Cascades Sonoco, Stella Jones and others.
Blais toured Kamtek’s Birmingham operations to learn more about the work of one of Canada’s largest automotive suppliers. Kamtek currently employs about 1,000 people here and is working to complete a $530 million expansion it announced last year. The expansion includes a new $80 million, 148,00-square-foot aluminum casting facility and a $450 million expansion of its existing operation.
If you are interested in learning more about exporting, join the Birmingham Business Alliance’s International Trade Leadership Series on October 19 and 20. Click here for more information.