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New W.Va. exporters recognized

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Jon Meriwether's company, located on the banks of the Ohio River, produces and sells 1,900 different items to build and maintain boat docks.

"We sell in all 50 states. Now we are also sending our dock products to the Bahamas, China, Japan, Canada and Mexico," Meriwether said after a ceremony Thursday for the West Virginia businesses who exported their goods to a new country in 2012.

"We have never laid anybody off in the 20 years we have operated the business," Meriwether said of his business, Merco Marine in Wellsburg. "Later this year, we will be taking all our employees and their spouses on a cruise."   

In all, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, the West Virginia Export Council and the West Virginia Development Office honored 52 businesses for beginning to ship exports to new countries during the past year.

In 2012, the value of West Virginia exports set a new record high of $11.3 billion, according to Tomblin. Exports include a wide variety of physical products - such as glass, wood, steel, shoes and fishing equipment -- as well as electronic devices and communication software, he said.

Countries newly receiving West Virginia products span the world, from China to Chile, from Australia to Canada, from Mongolia and South Korea to Tanzania and South Africa.

"Expanding into new markets around the world has provided our businesses an opportunity to demonstrate their ability to successfully compete in the global marketplace," Tomblin said during the ceremony at the Culture Center. "I'm pleased to have this opportunity to honor them for their success."

State Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette said, "This is the third record year in a row. We have been among the top two or three states in the country in terms of the percentage increase for our exports."

Don Gallion, chairman of the West Virginia Export Council, called West Virginia "truly a world-class exporting state."

He cited Allegheny Wood Products from Petersburg, which began trading with Indonesia and Mexico, while Steel of West Virginia from Huntington began shipping products to the Netherlands, Australia, Canada, China and South Africa.

Gallion also praised West Virginia University and Marshall University for offering "export management classes for the 12th year. They train students to be prepared for this [export] business."

Tomblin said West Virginia exports grew by 25 percent last year, "surpassing the national growth rate of 4.4 percent."

Ryuichi Sakamoto, president of Nippon Tungsten USA in Barboursville, said the West Virginia branch of his Japan-based company has begun sending die cutters and metal alloys to Ecuador, Mexico, Chile, Argentina and Brazil.

Schonstedt Instrument Co., based in Kearneysville in Jefferson County, makes equipment and devices to detect metal underground.

Bob Ebberson, Schonstedt's director of business development, said his company's products help detect the locations of underground utility equipment, including water pipes, gas lines, electric cables and ferrous metals.

Today, Shonstedt exports that equipment, which helps prevent leaks and explosions resulting from piercing underground pipes, to more than 50 countries.

"We have also teamed up with the United Nations to find underground ordinances," often called land mines, Ebberson said.

"We provide free equipment for humanitarian cleaning teams in 500 different locations in 24 countries. We are proud of that program that is cleaning up the earth."

Thousands of land mines, still dangerously explosive, remain underground across countries like Vietnam, Cambodia and Angola.

W. Ray Sickles, owner of Gurkee's Rope Sandals in Morgantown, said it was the first year his company, now 29 years old, received an export award.

"For years, we have sent our sandals all over the United States. Now, we also send them to Japan, Korea, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Spain and Tanzania," he said. "They all called us asking for our sandals."

The awards handed out, the Governor's Commendation for International Market Entry, include a framed piece of currency from each new country now buying products produced by West Virginia businesses.Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjnyden@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.


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