Exporting Siloam Springs and Northwest Arkansas to the world

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 308 views 

Often the forgotten city among Northwest Arkansas conversations, Siloam Springs businesses Cobb-Vantress, Houston Enzymes and DaySpring are each busy exporting their goods and services to the rest of the world.

The three business were featured at the recent Siloam Springs Chamber of Commerce Banquet, held Feb. 5 at the Simmons Great Hall on the John Brown University campus.

Dr. Alberto Torres-Rodriquez, export manager for Cobb Vantress, was born and raised in Mexico City but completed his doctorate at the University of Arkansas in 2006 and then joined Cobb Vantress.

Torres-Rodriguez said Cobb’s business spans the globe selling breeding stock to poultry companies on five continents.

“We use traditional genetic selection methods and provide the breeding stock to dozens of countries. At every dinner table with 10 people eating chicken, six of them would be eating chicken derived from Cobb-Vantress breeding stock,” he said.

While Cobb controls a majority share, the company continues to focus on expansions in Asia Pacific as well as increasing the number of production facilities in China and the Philippines. The Asia-Pacific team will see more technical support, performance data analysis and marketing intelligence to keep the business on track to attain more than half of the market in this region by the second half of 2015.

Cobb-Vantress is a subsidiary of Tyson Foods and operates its own facilities in the U.S. and the United Kingdom and uses distributor relationships to serve Mexico, Central America, South America, North and and South Africa, Europe. Middle East, India, Southeast Asia, China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. The company also works with two producers in western Russia.

Last month the company unveiled a new website users can navigate from a world map and locate Cobb fully owned facilities, producers, and distributors. Cobb commissioned the redesign to deliver a better user experience not only to distributors, but to customers worldwide.

“We are excited to provide the practical features that will help our users learn about the vast distribution network of Cobb products throughout the world,” said Clark Baird, marketing manager for North America.

Cobb officials recently said their business is poised to grow across the world amid global population increases over the next 50 years. A Cobb distributor in Africa for more than 50 years recently spoke about the poultry market in that region, highlighting the increasing population in the continent expected to reach 2 billion people by 2050.

Doing business on the world stage has its challenges, according to the company. For instance in Brazil there are wage inflation pressures impacting personal buying power. Russia and China can impose protectionist laws which makes working within those nations a little more tricky.

Also on the world stage the company recently celebrated the 100 million chick hatching in its German facility. The company’s hatchery at Wiesenena, near Leipzig, was opened in 1998 and has been expanded to a capacity of 10 million chicks a year to supply the 21 countries where it is the parent stock distributor.

Devin Houston, CEO of Houston Enzymes, said his research business of purifying enzymes came about because he believed in the work. Houston also told banquet attendees he would rather be the jerk than have to work for one, which also weighed in his decision to launch the company in 2000.

He relocated to Siloam Springs to launch his own company because he said the central location and quick access to an airport allows him to be on the east or west coast in about three hours time.

Houston said his work with enzymes that break down food has resonated across the globe because of positive results seen in autistic children. 

“This work with families with autistic children has become our niche. These children often have a lot of food intolerance and digestive issues and the disorder itself is disconcerting enough. Families have found introducing digestive enzymes can help with the food intolerance,” Houston said.

The company’s largest customer is in the United Kingdom and Houston said there is new research in the fields of enzymes and probiotics, noting that the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences is also involved in studying the benefits they provide in aiding digestion. 

“We also ship our enzyme supplements to Indonesia, Japan, Australia, the Netherlands, South Africa, Brazil, India, Phillipines and Canada. Our international business is growing each year. At this time between 25% and 30% of my sales are international,” Houston said.

His advice for those looking to open their businesses to international buyers is to know the markets, regulations and customs as well as possible before jumping onboard. He said working with a good local partner is crucial. 

“We rely on the chamber as a local resource to help us and we have found strong partnerships abroad as well,” Houston told the group.

Mark McKane, senior vice president retail development at DaySpring in Siloam Springs, said he relocated to Northwest Arkansas just eight months ago to take this position. He relocated from the San Francisco Bay area. 

“We came to Siloam Springs and loved to see this community living their faith. 
Don’t ever take that for granted. I have lived and worked in the Bay Area where there at 7.5 million people and only 3% are evangelical Christians,” McKane told the attendees at the banquet.

He said DaySpring works with more than 30 distributors that sell their cards and inspirational products in 70 countries. DaySpring items can be found in Singapore, Nigeria, Canada and United Kingdom, all of which McKane said are “big customers.”

McKane said it’s hard to do business in parts of the world given the company’s “Christian message.”

“People in places like Kuwait buy from us, but they are doing so at their own peril,” he added.

McKane said the company’s international business is only possible because of the strong partnerships it has with its distributor network. 

“You can’t just take your practices abroad and expect them to translate. Having strong partners in-country who speak the language, know the culture and understand the customs and regulations are imperative.”

DaySpring was acquired by Hallmark in 1999 but maintains a small corporate office in Siloam Springs.