MI company has stake in G20 summit

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA – Rugged Liner is located in Owosso, Michigan, but talks happening at the G20 summit across the world in Brisbane have a big impact on the company’s success.

Rugged Liner is growing; the truck bed liner manufacturer deals directly with at least 70 countries.

“The export side still remains a growing, growing area,” said Troy Angst, Chief Financial Officer at Rugged Liner. “And there’s a huge potential out there.”

That potential is impacting more than just the company – it’s causing dollars to be spent all over Owosso, Michigan.

“As we continue to grow this export business, we’re bringing more people here,” Angst said. “And, we are doing things in the local economy that are going to impact restaurant owners, waiters and waitresses, people working at the grocery stores – and that’s huge for us. That is what we want to continue to do.”

But that isn’t always easy for the company. Export avenues are tough to crack when trade agreements aren’t solid.

“The reason why a lot of the auto makers right now are setting up plants in Mexico, versus Michigan, or versus the U.S. Is because, having a plant in Mexico will give them access to all those markets, through free trade agreements,” said Yannick Greiner, Director of International Sales at Rugged Liner.

We first talked to workers at Rugged Liner one year ago ahead of the G20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia. Since then, some things have changed. Officials at Rugged Liner say the company has encountered problems shipping to Venezuela, Argentina, Turkey and Russia because of safety issues and geopolitical problems.

And they’re not alone.

The latest Department of Commerce numbers show nearly 14,000 small and medium-sized businesses in Michigan exported in 2012 – making up almost 90 percent of Michigan’s exporting businesses.

“It is clear that these two: geopolitical and trade are totally linked as an integral part of each other,” Greiner said.

These geopolitical situations are forcing world leaders to think differently as they try to plan for the future of the global economy. Despite the challenges, at Rugged Liner, workers are optimistic about the future.

“As a businessman, as an international businessman, for me, obviously, I want them to focus on trade, because I truly believe that by opening of trades, you actually can bring peace and you bring more understanding between these countries,” Greiner said.

Rugged Liner plans to expand into new markets across the globe, while hiring more workers in Michigan.

When it comes to a possible resurgence in U.S. manufacturing, Rugged Liner knows reducing barriers to trade will certainly help.

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