Leprino Event Review by Nick Thomas

When much of your global business depends on predictability and well established international trade agreements, it isn’t a big surprise that the trajectory of the current US administration may be throwing a spanner in the works.

“Our biggest concern is over NAFTA and the general trade policy of this administration,” said Sue Taylor, VP Economics and Policy for Leprino Foods Company, at a Denver IBC meeting earlier this month. NAFTA has until now been a boon for the dairy industry, she added.

Talks to discuss a possible renegotiation of the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) are due to reconvene in November but are currently at an impasse, according to multiple reports. President Trump has signaled he is willing to break up the agreement and that possibility remains on the table even as renegotiation remains the most favored option.

Leprino is the world’s largest manufacturer of mozzarella cheese and a significant producer of whey and lactose. . From its humble origins in Denver where Mike Leprino operated a small grocery store, the company has expanded to serve over 40 countries worldwide. Its current headquarters is located on the same site as that first family grocery store.

The company established a regional hub in Singapore in 2011 and also recently established a distribution center for the Middle East in Dubai, Taylor said. Much of the company’s international focus is now in Asia Pacific .China is of course of major interest too, particularly as the government there is increasingly focusing on the importance of nutrition. Mexico and Latin America remain important markets.


Review By Nick Thomas – Is Globalism Past Its Peak?

Climate change, piracy, illegal fishing, and plastics pollution are just some of the multiple problems facing the world’s oceans. Coordinated actions and policies are vital to try and address them, a recent IBC Business Briefings meeting discussed.

Held at the City Stacks bookstore in downtown Denver October 19, the meeting, attended by a group of internationally focused business leaders from the Denver Metro area, heard from two leaders in the fight for such coordinated action; Vicki Goldstein, founder and CEO of the Colorado Ocean Coalition Colorado Ocean, and Ernesto Penas Lado, Director of Policy Development and Coordination for the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.

“These are global problems and most of these challenges cannot be dealt with by the EU alone,” said Penas Lado who estimated the so-called “Blue Economy” as worth about $1.4 trillion a year in terms of maritime jobs around the world.

Finding global solutions to complex maritime problems can be very difficult, Goldstein agreed, citing the 2010 National Ocean Policy supported by President Obama as an example. “It is very difficult to coordinate enforcement.”

Still, there have been some notable successes with Penas Lado giving the example of South Korea which had consistently been fishing illegally in West Africa. When the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade was made aware by the EU that its reputation as a reliable partner in international trade was at stake, the South Korean government became “a role model of reaction” with a “spectacular change,” he said. Similar progress with other countries such as the US, China, and Japan has been slow at best, Penas Lado added.

Nevertheless, with 70% of the world covered by oceans and with so many jobs depending on the Blue Economy, it is vital to keep instilling a sense of community around the oceans, Goldstein said.

The EU was at its best when it focuses on big picture concepts such as the Blue Economy, Penas Lado added.

“It is important to promote the exchange of information and to never lecture (other countries),” he said, giving the examples of China and Senegal.

IBC member Richard Robertson, Director at Sybro, a consulting company focused on green technology, said such events are a great way to find out more about subjects which are already of personal interest.

“I love the ocean and am aware of its profound importance to life on earth but I wanted to learn more about how economic incentives are being used to drive sustainable use of our ocean resources,” he said. “I like the way these briefings bring together a cross section of private and public sector executives and how I get to learn from some great subject matter experts as well as from each of the other attendees.”

The Business Briefings discussion groups are a series of IBC events aimed at provoking discussion on major foreign policy topics. The next event will be held November 9 and will look at the foreign policy objectives of the new US administration a day after the Presidential Election.


Event Review by Nick Thomas: Russia and Near Abroad

Russia’s role in the Syrian conflict and Vladimir Putin’s continued popularity with the Russian people were among the themes discussed at a recent IBC briefing entitled “Russia and the Near Abroad.”

Part of the Great Decisions series inspired by the Foreign Policy Association’s publication of the same name, the briefing involved a small group of IBC members, Russophiles and Russian speakers and was held at the City Stacks independent bookstore in downtown Denver.

Expert speaker Tom Austin, who has lived and worked in Russia for many years in the mining and construction industries and as a consultant, explained that the title of the briefing was linked to Putin’s fear of people living better in the “near abroad” than they do in Russia itself. For example, he said, this was one of the reasons why Putin had acted like he did regarding Ukraine where he remains convinced the uprising against Russian influence was organized by the United States.

The concept of a strong Russia exercising its regional power, as it has done in Ukraine, resonates with the Russian people as a whole who are wary of capitalistic influences and more interested in security and stability than in new opportunities, Austin said. Many Russians, bruised by the loss of their savings in the early days of post Communist Russia, continue to see capitalism as a poor system for Russia, he added.

Whether Putin was ready to build on his control over domestic issues and develop into more of an international strategist remains to be seen, said Mike Shanley, a Ukraine expert, former Peace Corps volunteer, and CEO and founder of Konektid, a consulting group focused on emerging markets.

“Putin is more of a judo player than a chess player,” Shanley said. “He isn’t really a strategic thinker.”

Austin said that the conflict in Syria, where Russia is allied with the government and its Iranian backers, could allow Putin to develop more of a strategic thrust by exercising pressure on US ally Saudi Arabia for example and deepening its role in the ongoing Sunni and Shia Muslim divide.

Before this final meeting of the series, the IBC had also held briefings on India, Privacy in the Digital Age, and the Syrian Refugee Crisis. The idea of the seminars is to offer a platform to go a little deeper into current affairs topics in a setting more conducive to such discussion than the IBC’s regular monthly social gatherings.

Event Review By Nick Thomas: ‘Growing Across The Globe’ – Feb 19 – Governor’s Residence

A hundred and forty members and their guests enjoyed the elegant surroundings of the Governor’s Mansion in Denver on February 19th to enjoy a discussion of how to make a business as competitive as possible in the global economy.

The discussion panel featured an impressive trio of business leaders with very varied backgrounds: Heather Callender-Potters, Co-Chairman and Global Business Development Officer of Golden-based PharmaJet; Sandi Moilanen, Director International Division of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT); and Alan Propp, Business Development Manager for Merrick & Company, a global engineering services company based in Greenwood Village, Colorado.

Colorado’s business ties with the rest of the world make for impressive reading. Moilanen pointed out that about 90,000 people locally work for international companies with $20bn of the state’s exports and services being sold in international markets in 2014. While neighbors Mexico and Canada predictably remain the biggest markets for Colorado companies, there is notable growth in Asia with China now Colorado’s third largest trading partner. Even Europe, which has declined to about 15% market share from a high of 25%, has been making significant strides in the state in the area of advanced manufacturing, Moilanen added.

Mexico is also a major international stage for Merrick, Propp said, but the company is also focusing on China, South America, the Middle East and Africa. “You have to know what you are getting into as you go into a country,” he warned. Due diligence is therefore all important as is the necessity of recognizing that relationships are everything. Much of the company’s international business comes from a small team doing the groundwork several months of the year in far-flung countries, he said. In terms of risks that need to be weighed, for example, Propp pointed out that the backlog of judicial cases involving businesses can go back about three hundred years in India.

The growing middle class in India is also an increasingly important target market for PharmaJet which manufactures needle free syringes. Currently, the company has manufacturing facilities in Wisconsin but is looking to reduce its costs by manufacturing in the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) countries and the Middle East. The company has faced challenges expanding globally, not least the opposition of traditional needle manufacturing companies, Callender-Potters said, but it has established partnerships with major organizations in the field such as the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as well as a number of pharmaceutical companies.

“Our focus is on immunization,” Callender-Potters said. “Forty to seventy percent of needles are reused in other markets around the world.”

This event was graciously sponsored by OEDIT and EKS&H, a Colorado-based public accounting firm providing audit, tax, and consulting services to clients locally, nationally, and internationally.

For event photos, click here: http://www.melissacheriephotography.com/p864383632