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Global markets helping fuel NM exporters

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Some 550 “Made in New Mexico” crushing machines are busting up stones, raw materials and industrial leftovers in the U.S. and 29 other countries, from South Africa to Russia and China.

CEMCO President Neil Hise with glass crushers made at the CEMCO facility in Belen. The machines, which mash up glass into fine sand, have been shipped to the Dominican Republic.

CEMCO President Neil Hise with glass crushers made at the CEMCO facility in Belen. The machines, which mash up glass into fine sand, have been shipped to the Dominican Republic.

The machines, known as vertical impact crushers, are made by CEMCO Inc., which builds them at a 144,000-square-foot facility in Belen for use in locations such as mines, quarries and recycling operations. The company, which launched in 1961, began exporting the crushers in the 1980s, but in recent years, it aggressively ramped up its international sales.

Foreign markets accounted for about 50 percent of CEMCO’s revenue in 2011, helping the company to weather the recession that began in 2008. Since then, exports have hovered at about 40 percent of sales, and this year, they’ve dipped as low as 30 percent because of economic slowdowns in China, Europe and other places, said CEMCO President Neil Hise.

But the company’s market diversity has kept business overall fairly steady, with 30 full-time employees.

“Revenue overall is up since the recession, although last year was terrible, really downhill,” Hise said. “But it would have been a lot worse without international sales. We would have been up the creek without that.”

CEMCO is one of many companies around New Mexico that are aggressively pushing into foreign markets to diversify their customer base and grow their revenue.

Overall, about 1,340 businesses across the state are now exporting at least some of their products to world markets, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. And most of them are either small- or medium-sized companies like CEMCO, not global titans like Intel Corp.

That growing export base helped push New Mexico’s international sales last year to their highest level in state history. The lion’s share is going to Mexico, accounting for about 41 percent of total exports in 2014.

CEMCO President Neil Hise shows crushed material from the industrial crushing machine that the company operates onsite, visible in the background.

CEMCO President Neil Hise shows crushed material from the industrial crushing machine that the company operates onsite, visible in the background.

That largely reflects growth at the Santa Teresa industrial zone in southern New Mexico, where companies are taking advantage of modern warehousing and shipping facilities to supply Mexico’s booming maquila industry.

But many more companies from around New Mexico are also doing business south of the border, spurred on by market proximity, growing demand among Mexico’s maquilas and increased purchasing power among Mexican consumers.

Government programs are encouraging more local companies to explore trade with Mexico and elsewhere. The City of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County established a Trade Alliance in 2012 to offer education and assistance to companies. And, the city, the state and the University of New Mexico established a trade office in Mexico City last year to reinforce commercial and academic ties with Mexico.

Since opening, the trade office has provided varying levels of assistance to about two dozen companies, said Randy Trask of Encuentro Inc., which manages the city-county trade alliance.

Albuquerque-based Kinesio Holding Co., for example – which makes therapeutic “Kinesio Tape” for athletes and doctors – signed its first partnership in September with a Mexican retail distributor, RunXperts, thanks to assistance from the trade office, said Karli Jenkins, international sales assistant project manager for Kinesio. The company expects to sign another contract with a medical market distributor in Mexico in October.

“We expect the retail partnerships to bring in eight to 10 percent of our international sales this year, and then really ramp up in 2016.”Jenkins said.

But local companies are also building markets across the globe, with New Mexico products sold in 93 countries last year, according to the Commerce Department.

Israel is New Mexico’s second-largest trade partner after Mexico, accounting for about 21 percent of the state’s total foreign sales. With computer-related electronics and components accounting for more than 90 percent of state exports to Israel last year, the vast majority of the state’s trade there is likely coming from Intel Corp. in Rio Rancho, which ships goods to its sister facilities around the world.

But government programs are still helping to build exports there independent of Intel. The New Mexico-Israel Business Exchange has been organizing trade missions to Israel for several years, including a joint trade mission planned for this month with the New Mexico Association of Commerce and Industry.

The state Economic Development Department has local partners under contract in Israel and Brazil to help New Mexico companies establish trade relations. And the state is planning to contract another partner in Asia, likely in Taiwan, said Development Secretary Jon Barela.

Those programs, backed by assistance from the U.S. Commerce Department, have helped many companies build export markets.

“I take calls from New Mexico companies every day that are doing business in a wide variety of places,” said Robert Queen, director of the Commerce Department’s New Mexico Export Assistance Center, located in El Paso. “We’re seeing more New Mexico companies reaching global markets through e-commerce platforms.”

Many firms also use the Commerce Department’s “Gold Key” program, which offers low-cost, customized service for companies to develop trade leads, arrange meetings and provide translation services.

Great River Technology, an Albuquerque maker of electronics products for aircraft cockpit displays, found customers in Russia, China and South Korea through the program.

“I don’t speak Chinese or Russian, so that helped a lot,” said Great River Marketing Director Tim Keller. “They do an immense amount of leg work for you at very low cost.”

Some companies, particularly in aviation and aerospace, are basing much, if not most, of their current and future growth on exports.

Aspen Avionics in Albuquerque, which makes digital flight controls for general aviation aircraft, now earns about 28 percent of its revenue from exports, with a goal of 40 percent in the next few years, said President and CEO John Uczekaj.

“Aviation is a global industry and aerospace is one of the largest exporting businesses in the country,” Uczekaj said.

Albuquerque-based Ultramain Systems Inc., which sells wireless software systems for ground- and flight-based maintenance and inventory control, signed a contract this year to install its software at 22 Mexican airports.

“Exports now account for about 80 percent of our business,” said Ultramain President and CEO Mark McCausland. “We’re all over the world, from Australia and the Middle East to Hong Kong and Mexico.”

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