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Export-Import Bank Executive Sees Mississippi Coast as Potential Trade Hotbed

The Sun Herald, , Saturday; Copyright 2001 The Sun Herald - By David Tortorano


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GULFPORT, Miss.--A member of the board of directors of the Export-Import Bank of the United States said he's bullish on the trade potential of the Gulf Coast.

Dan Renberg, keynote luncheon speaker at Friday's trade conference at the Grand Casino, said representatives of the bank have visited the Coast, Mobile and northwest Florida area regularly because we see it as a potential hotbed of exporting.

I'm very bullish on the prospects for this region in terms of exporting, said Renberg, whose last visit to the Coast was in November.

The conference, Celebrating World Trade: NAFTA and Beyond, was jointly sponsored by the Mississippi District Export Council, the Alabama District Council and the Trade Council of Northwest Florida.

Renberg spoke about how the Export-Import Bank, a government agency which provides loans and credit insurance to help finance the sale of U.S. goods and services abroad, can help Coast companies.

He said the recent Summit of the Americas, where Western Hemisphere leaders agreed to create a Free Trade Area of the Americas by 2005, is a step toward creating the world's largest free-trade area - 34 nations with a combined population of 800 million.

With the North American Free Trade Agreement in place and President Bush focusing on free trade, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida companies are poised to capitalize more than ever on trade in this hemisphere, he said.

Representatives of the Export-Import Bank frequently speak at conferences to get the word out about selling goods and services overseas. Renberg said the U.S. has close to 300,000 companies exporting, which represents less than 5 percent of U.S. businesses.

He said that in Mississippi over the past six years, about 20 companies have been helped and there's no reason that couldn't be tripled or quadrupled.

Renberg said that not all states have the same focus on trade, and some have been doing it much longer. But, he said, that's changing as states that have not been major players are beginning to see the benefits. Looking ahead five years, he said, there will be less of a disparity.

It is not peculiar to this area that companies are just now starting to discover export potential, Renberg said.

This article was reproduced with the permission of the Sun-Herald.