Business Matters: Plymouth company sees business growth with exports

At Plymouth-based Banner Engineering, the company's manufacturing plant operates around the clock producing sensors, LED lighting components, and other safety systems used by a variety of industries in a growing number of countries.
"Twenty years ago our export business represented about 4% of Banner's total sales, and today, it represents nearly 40%," said
Carla Grafstrom, Vice President of Finance and Administration at Banner Engineering.

Many local companies are finding a growing market for their products overseas. Exports from the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area increased 12.9% in 2011, growing to $26.2 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce's International Trade Administration.

For Banner Engineering, outside of the U.S., China is its biggest market for products, but the company is also seeing export growth in Mexico, and eastern Europe, specifically Turkey in recent months.

"We've followed growth in manufacturing to Brazil to India to China to Korea," said Grafstrom. "As manufacturing is growing around the world, we've followed that trend."

St. Thomas University Law School Professor and tax advisor Mark Sellner said more local companies, from smaller manufacturers to those in agriculture and environmental industries, are starting to capitalize on export opportunities.  

"It makes a difference to the state, to our economy, and it certainly makes a difference to the company," said Sellner, who recently made his first trip to China with a state delegation through Governor Dayton's office.

Sellner said as Minnesota companies are tapping into overseas opportunities, they're expanding their business locally as well. 

Over the past year, the number of workers Banner Engineering employs in the United States has grown by 10%.

"As our products and growth have grown all over the world, it's meant more jobs here at home," said Grafstrom. 

375 of Banner's 1,000 employees work in Plymouth. 

Alexandra Renslo reporting

September 24, 2012


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