Potential new markets for products, services

LISBON — The biggest take away for Columbiana County Port Authority Director Penny Traina’s participation in a recent trade mission to Thailand and Vietnam was the size of their industrial parks and how they are set up.

She said the industrial parks located on the sea coasts there are mammoth — up to 25 miles long in one instance — and include not just the manufacturer but the chain of suppliers that provide the specific materials and components needed by the manufacturer to produce the product. In the United States, suppliers are often located in other states, driving up costs.

“It was amazing to see this concept of basically one-stop shopping (the supply chain all in one place),” Traina said.

She said they could certainly learn something from how the two countries set up and operate their industrial parks. Moussa Kassis, a marketing professor at Youngstown State University and the export assistance network director for the Ohio Small Business Development Center at YSU, agreed.

“It certainly makes for very efficient productivity,” he said.

Kassis, who was one of three local representatives to participate in the March trade mission, said the key difference is that in Thailand and Vietnam the government owns the industrial property and leases it out to the manufacturer. In the United State, the manufacturer generally owns the property.

Traina, Kassis and Columbiana County Commissioner Mike Halleck were part of a group from the Ohio-Pennsylvania Stateline Export Initiative that spent two days each in Thailand and Vietnam meeting with local officials, business groups and manufacturers as part of their efforts to find potential new markets for products and services from businesses in Northeast Ohio and Western Pennsylvania.

“It was a marathon but we got a lot done in a short time,” Traina said.

Also participating in the trade mission from Ohio were representatives from ACE Products and Consulting (from the rubber and silicone industry), the Columbus Regional Airport Authority, Deerfield Ag Services and Zebra Skimmers (oil skimmers and machine coolant management.)

The Pennsylvania contingent included representatives from the Northwest Commission, Betts Industries, Dalko Resources, Network Forest Products and Ron Jones Hardwoods.

According to OPEI, trade between the two countries and Ohio and Pennsylvania totaled $5.4 billion in 2017. Traina said they made important contacts they expect will result in increased trade, noting two of the Ohio businesses on the trip came away with potential agreements.

“We have just barely touched on the potential when it comes to exports,” Kassis said.

With multi-billion dollar ethane cracker chemical plants either being built on the Ohio River — one in nearby Monaca by Royal Dutch Shell and the other planned by PTT Global Chemical for Dilles Bottom — he said the county is well positioned to take advantage of the “plastics” corridor that these plants will create. PTT is a Thailand-based company.

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