NEW BLOOMFIELD - International business in Missouri has been steadily increasing since 2010, and has even set records in the state over the past two years.
According to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, the Columbia metropolitan area exported over $296 million of goods in 2012. The area ranks 5th in the state overall for the amount of exports during that year.
The world's largest producer of oak log homes is based in New Bloomfield.
During the last few weeks of January, Gastineau Log Homes recently partnered with a group in Mongolia that plans to buy and assemble log homes of its own.
Lynn Gastineau is the president of Gastineau Log Homes. "Particularly in Mongolia, because they are nomadic people, there is really not a residential housing construction industry," she said.
The group in Mongolia plans to start a program to teach students how to construct log homes. This is a new development for the country because most all of their homes and residential buildings are built from concrete.
Since Gastineau Log Homes began distributing homes in 1977, it has shipped homes to every state in the United States and Mongolia marks its 13th country.
"I see international business as an opportunity to take our products to new markets. I can keep all the loggers employed and my employees employed, and it's a way for us to develop our business and keep it going," Gastineau said.
Gastineau is taking advantage of the downturn in the United States housing market.
"Expanding overseas is economically feasible for us. We were building 2.2 million houses per year here in the United States, and right now we are probably only going to build 500,000 this year," Gastineau said.
While 2011 and 2012 were both record years for international exports in the state of Missouri, the Department of Economic Development is working to increase those numbers.
In 2013, Gov. Jay Nixon announced a new international trade initiative, Export Missouri.
The initiative is working on several projects. The International Trade and Investment office for Export Missouri is set to launch Missouri's Global Market Access Program (G-MAP). G-MAP's goal is to offset costs of Missouri companies participating in international trade shows, state sponsored trade missions, and foreign market sales trips.
Another one Export Missouri's projects is creating a website for businesses in the state to put buyers and sellers in direct connection. The website will be similar to Alibaba Group, which is a website where buyers and sellers have the opportunity to buy and sell products online anywhere in the world.
Developers are working on the website now and plan to have it for use in Spring 2014.
"We are constantly getting calls from business overseas asking if Missouri businesses are exporting certain products," said Amy Susan, the Director of Marketing and Communications for the Department of Economic Development. "So this website will really benefit businesses around the state."
Gastineau says the amount of natural resources and transportation methods the state has is ideal for international business.
"In Missouri we are growing three times the amount of timber than we are cutting each year. We need to be cutting more timber out of our forests this year because our forests are getting extremely old," Gastineau said. When our forests get to be this old it creates forest fires and all sorts of diseases."
Gastineau says her business has the ability and resouces to ship to anywhere in the world. She says the business takes full advantage of the easily accessible highways and railroads. With the Mississippi River, Gastineau can also distribute products to the Gulf and the Great Lakes to export them further.
Susan and the Department of Economic Development recognize one main reason some businesses do not want to participate in international business is due to foreign business practices and somtimes even a language barrier.
"Language barrier is kind of the first barrier, but it is the easiest to overcome. You can always hire an interpreter," Richard Li, a business consultant for Gastineau Log Homes, said.
Li is helping Gastineau move forward with the Mongolian project. He has been on several visits to Asia for Gastineau Log Homes. He says his one piece of advice for business managers is to recognize the market is overseas.
"We have been marketing to America, but the whole world is bigger than us," Li said. "The Asian market is really where a lot of our products are wanted."
In fact, in 2012, only 43% of Missouri's exported goods were delivered to places in North America. 31% of Missouri's exported goods were delivered to markets in Asia.
Gastineau and her team recently began discussing plans with a group from India to begin distribution there. She says Gastineau Log Homes plans to ship India its first log home in April.
If your business is interested in learning more about receiving additional funding from the state and how to begin the exporting process, contact the Department of Economic Development.