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Tracy Frank, Published December 09 2013

N.D. businesses a strong presence at world’s largest ag trade show

FARGO - Some North Dakota businesses took part in the world’s largest agricultural trade show. And their efforts have yielded big results. Agritechnica, held in November in Hanover, Germany, drew a record 450,000 visitors, according to the event’s website.

Andrea Berton, an international trade specialist with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s U.S. Commercial Service, based in Minneapolis, attended the event and said North Dakota had a strong presence.

“If you don’t show up at the event where everybody is doing business, you don’t get the opportunity to do business,” she said. “A number of the companies made significant increases in their export presence because of their participation in the show.”

WCCO Belting, Inc., out of Wahpeton, closed on a major deal the company had been working on for the past two years with the largest farm equipment manufacturer in Russia, said Tom Shorma, the company’s CEO and president. Shorma is also the state’s District Export Council chairman and a North Dakota Trade Office board member.

“We are a company that relies heavily on our exporting sales,” Shorma said, adding that 60 percent of company revenue comes from customers outside the U.S.

WCCO Belting is the largest manufacturer of rubber conveyor belting used in farm equipment in the world, Shorma said.

The company sells product in 20 countries, but has never before exhibited at Agritechnica. WCCO Belting is a component supplier and doesn’t need to exhibit in a big way, but the company lined up important meetings with customers and prospective customers at the show, Shorma said.

Butler Machinery of Fargo, Grouser Products of West Fargo, Summers Manufacturing Co. of Devils Lake, and Superior Manufacturing LLC of Kindred also attended.

The companies were among nearly 2,900 exhibitors from 47 countries.

Though WCCO Belting was only there for the show’s preview days, the company was also able to connect with potential customers it had not arranged to meet ahead of time.

“Surprisingly some of them even walked up to our exhibit and asked us about our product because they saw our products on other people’s equipment in the show,” he said.

Shorma started pushing export opportunities 12 years ago when he became CEO and president of the family business. Since then the company has grown from 30 people to 200 in Wahpeton and another 60 at their plant in Texas, he said, primarily through export sales.

To help pay for their exhibits, a few of the companies that went to Agritechnica – including WCCO Belting – used money from STEP ND, the state’s exporter reimbursement program funded in part through a grant from the Small Business Administration’s State Trade and Export Promotion Grant Program and administered through the North Dakota Trade Office.

Shorma said the exporting help the U.S. Commercial Service and North Dakota Trade Office gives companies is the biggest reason North Dakota is leading the country in export growth. The next Agritechnica will be held Nov. 8-14, 2015 in Hanover.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526