Seven Alabama companies joined Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield on a trade mission to Bulgaria and Romania recently.
The companies visited the cities of Sofia, Bulgaria and Bucharest, Romania, to identify new markets for goods and services and is a first for Alabama officials. Exports to both countries from the state are up from previous years – exports to Bulgaria totaled $6.8 million in 2017, an increase of a whopping 1400 percent from 2016, and exports to Romania were up over 170 percent, totaling $2.2 million last year.
Birmingham’s Thompson Tractor traveled on the five-day mission and went to harness new business opportunities and possible customers in the two Southeastern European countries, said Jake Dahn, used equipment manager for Thompson Tractor, who was part of the Alabama delegation and sells Caterpillar heavy equipment for construction and other industries.
“It was a success,” Dahn said. “I think a handful of relationships will develop. It will take time, but we’ll get business done.”
The overarching purpose of the mission was to take Alabama companies that wanted to explore and pursue export opportunities to sell their products in Southeast Europe, specifically in Romania and Bulgaria, said Hilda Lockhart, director of international trade for the Alabama Department of Commerce.
“The mission allowed them to meet directly with potential buyers in these markets via one-to-one pre-screened meetings that we arranged working with the U.S. Department of Commerce Foreign Commercial Service in these countries,” she said. “A secondary benefit for the trip was to promote Alabama as a place to invest and do business.”
Opportunities in Bulgaria specifically, where top imports include industry machinery and vehicles, were what drew Thompson Tractor to the trade mission. Dahn said he anticipates about half of the people he met with on the mission will become customers.
The next mission, slated for the spring, will be to the United Kingdom and Ireland and focus on biotech.