Minot-Area businesses tap International Markets

Minot-Area businesses tap International Markets

Posted on June 28, 2005

Anyone in sales will tell you that meeting potential customers face-to-face is the most effective way to generate new business.

It’s a practice that a growing number of Minot-area companies are applying in the international marketplace.

Businesses like Cal-Dak Cabinets in Minot, Arrow-Tech, Inc. in Rolla and Crosby based Superior Grains are participating in trade missions that give them access to customers around the world.

Arrow-Tech, which manufactures hand-held meters that detect and measure radiation, is realizing the benefits that trade missions offer and the value of an international customer base, said Ronald Disrud, an Arrow-Tech engineer and sales director.

Arrow-Tech’s 25 employees are the only makers of direct-reading radiation dosimeters in the United States. The meters are in high demand in the medical industry and for use in homeland security.

“That’s the big concern all over the world – homeland security,” Disrud said.

Since landing its first overseas sale in 1998, Arrow-Tech is now shipping its dosimeters to more than 100 customers in 33 countries.

Trade missions and export services provided by the North Dakota Trade Office and U.S. Commercial Service are a big part of Arrow-Tech’s growing international sales, he said.

“A lot of it is just learning how everything operates in other countries,” Disrud said. “Without the Trade Office it would have been more difficult.

“Every time I’ve run into a stumbling block, one or two phone calls and I get the help I need,” he said.

Arrow-Tech has joined other North Dakota businesses in trade missions to China, Taiwan, Japan and will be part of a trade delegation leaving for Australia March 2.

Disrud and other Arrow-Tech officials identified their most promising export markets through the help of the North Dakota Trade Office and Heather Ranck, a Fargo-based international trade specialist with the U.S. Commercial Service. The Commercial Service is a U.S. Department of Commerce agency that helps small and medium-sized U.S. exporters enter new markets.

Last year, the U.S. Commercial Service presented Arrow-Tech an Export Achievement Award. The award was created to recognize small and medium-sized businesses that successfully enter the international marketplace.

About 30 miles north of Minot, Michael and Pat Gates operate a 16,000 square-foot manufacturing plant where their employees build a full line of harrows and harrow attachments that are shipped to farmers around the world.

“Once you get the bugs worked out it’s just as easy to sell overseas as it is next door,” said Michael Gates, president of Gates Manufacturing Inc., near Lansford.

Gates Manufacturing has exported its harrows to Canada, France, Australia and the Ukraine.

“There’s big potential in Russia and the Ukraine,” Gates said.

In 1999, the North Dakota District Export Council recognized Gates Manufacturing as the state’s top exporter of the year.

Gary Price’s Minot cabinetry business is growing because he refuses to limit its geographical reach.

President of Cal-Dak Cabinets, Price is always looking for new domestic and international customers.

His search led him to Japan and Taiwan last year where Price and representatives of 10 other North Dakota businesses took part in a trade mission.

Price said he returned to Minot to ship cabinetry for homes under construction in Japan.

“We’ll go where ever an opportunity presents itself,” Price said.

Cal-Dak employs about 20 workers and sells about $2 million in commercial and residential cabinetry annually, Price said.

Other Minot-area businesses that are participating in trade missions include West Dakota Feed and Seed in Ross and Garrison-based JM Grain.

Les Knutson, President of Crosby based Superior Grains, knows first hand the benefits of trade missions and expanding sales into the global marketplace.

Knutson, a member of the North Dakota Trade Office Advisory Board, has shipped North Dakota-grown peas and lentils to customers on every continent except Antarctica.

The personal attention that trade missions offer helped Superior Grains land many of its foreign customers, he said.

“Trade missions are critical in providing a first step in increasing sales,” he said.

Superior Grains began exporting its high-quality crops in 2002.

“We literally went from not exporting to shipping practically everywhere,” he said.

Within the next two months, Superior Grains will sell high-value peas and lentils in India, Europe, South America, the Pacific Rim, Africa and the Middle East.

Superior Grains employs about 50 workers at its plants in Williston and Crosby.

“I think it is important that North Dakota get as close as we possibly can to the dinner plate of the world,” Knutson said.

The North Dakota Trade Office Web site is www.ndto.com.

International Trade Specialist Heather Ranck can be contacted at (701) 239-5080 or by e-mail at heather.ranck@mail.doc.gov