Western Michigan looks to Middle East
BY LYNN STEVENS
A few western Michigan companies have discovered new markets in the Middle East — and more could.
Demand is strong, and there is a lot of professional help locally to expand sales in the region, professionals say.
“There are more than $1.6 trillion to spend by just the six Gulf countries on various projects where American countries can produce equipment, know-how, technology and products,” said Abdul Quader Shaikh, senior international economist for the trade-information center of the federal Department of Commerce.
“Of course, Michigan is always doing business — I think about $1.8 billion. They need to do more because if they (Middle Eastern countries) don’t use our products and services, other countries are going to take that market.”
Many Middle Eastern decision-makers have studied in the United States — the former ambassador to the United States from Qatar is a Western Michigan University graduate, for example — and Shaikh said those former students have an affinity for the country.
“They would prefer to buy U.S. products because they think it is of a high quality,” he said.
“In the Middle East, we see demand for all kinds of products — building products, capital equipment, engineering services. It’s very diverse,” said Martha Gabrielse, vice president of global trade for Chase Bank in Grand Rapids.
Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Jordan are all very different markets from each other, and potential exporters should evaluate each country’s needs separately, she said.
Kalamazoo-based Azon USA Inc. has found Dubai to be an excellent new market for its thermal-barrier window systems. The realization that “oil revenues will not be around forever” is driving a green-construction boom in Dubai ordered by its ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.