European turmoil creates a market

November 23, 2011

The economic crisis in Europe has captured the attention of everyone in the world, the miracle of unification and creation of the European Union seemingly careening out of control.

While so many business people are pulling back, I see this as opportunity to move forward with our riot protection gear. The customers are still there, the businesses are buying and even if they are temporarily stymied, there will be pent up demand to fill later.

Owners of small businesses who have been encouraged to participate in the National Export Initiative (NEI) by the Obama administration wonder if Europe will even exist next year. Controversy and a swirling business environment are difficult enough here in the United States; throwing in the politics of Europe can create an uncertainty that exceeds the pain threshold of most business people.

The actual reality is far different in Europe than the current perception. We are describing growing pains for the EU coupled with an unprecedented and very slow recovery from the Great Recession. The folding in of the Eastern Block has taken time and not all things are predictable. Business continues, people are purchasing and so are the government entities.

My business manufacturers and sells a variety of safety equipment, including riot control body shields for Greek police, and face protection for electricians throughout Europe.

We build our product here in the United States and export to Germany. Our best-selling items are the face shields for electricians, and these are shipping to Europe on a weekly basis. The international market is a growing part of our business, representing 25 percent of sales.

By establishing myself in Germany, I pay taxes, prepay the value-added tax on inbound shipments for the U.S. and essentially am embedded in their society. This allows access and we have created a customer base within the EU just as if we were a native company in Europe.

We fully expect to see growth in our European business in 2012. This growth will come from multiple applications and it is really due to the hard work we have invested over the years. You cannot expect success in Europe unless you are willing to invest and commit to the effort.

The Obama administration is correct to push the NEI. In Europe, the business is there, economic crisis or not.

We have put off the decision to hire additional workers until the second quarter of 2012, when we will review orders against capacity.

Certainly I want to see growth and prosperity both here and throughout the world. I want continuous growth for my company and we will achieve it by protecting people, in good times and bad.

Roy Paulson is president of Paulson Manufacturing in Temecula, Calif.

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