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LEDA going overseas to recruit employers

The Lincoln Economic Development Association is pushing harder to become internationally known.

Known as LEDA, for years the organization has been trying to establish a presence overseas. LEDA’s Web site receives an average of 21,003 unique hits a year from 74 countries.

The top five visiting countries, other than the United States, were Canada, with 141 hits; the United Kingdom, 71; India, 56; Ireland, 49; and Brazil, 45. Although LEDA is thrilled to have such high numbers, it wants to do more to give the county additional exposure outside the United States.

LEDA plans to start an international Lunch and Learn quarterly, although no date has been set to launch the program yet.

“Several times a year, we will have a speaker from a different country come during casual lunch periods and tell us about their culture, business practices and anything unique,” said LEDA executive director Barry Matherly.

Also, LEDA is trying to establish a trade relationship with Brazil, which has some roots in Lincoln County through Sabo, a manufacturing plant that cranks out parts for General Motors.

“We are trying to build a relationship where we not only go down there and look for companies, but we also work with our existing companies to see if they have any supplier relationships here,” Matherly said.

Making strong ties with Brazil will have its advantages, Matherly said. Brazil, along with China, Russia and India, are the fastest-growing developing economies in the world.

Charlotte Douglas International Airport offers direct flights from Charlotte to Brazil, bringing in more international traffic near Lincoln County.

Panico Peres, executive vice president of SABO, now serves as an international member of LEDA’s board of directors.

“We have a Brazilian board member, a direct flight to Brazil and we’ve already recruited from Brazil … it starts lining up,” Matherly said.

“The issue with international relations is you have to build relationships first before the recruiting really takes place, so what we are trying to do this year is really establish those relationships, find that community and bond together.”

Peres has seen the advantages of bringing Sabo’s first production plant in the United States to Lincolnton.

Having accessibility to the airport cuts down on employees’ travel time and expense. Flights to Brazil last almost 11 hours. But trips that require employees to go to different job sites from the Charlotte airport are much shorter. Employees can normally leave and return the same day.

Also, being in the United States gets Sabo closer to its customers. “By the time we ship from Brazil and the time the customer gets the part, it can be very lengthy so people like myself are going to look and see, how can we get closer to the customer,” Peres said.

So far, nine countries – Austria, Brazil, Australia, China, Germany, Iceland, Israel, Japan and Singapore – have businesses stationed in Lincoln County. LEDA hopes to add more countries to that list in the future.

“One of the things LEDA has determined is there is a lot of fluidity between the countries right now, so people think that jobs are going away from the United States, but the truth of the matter is, the U.S. is the largest single market worldwide, so inevitably, people are going to come here,” Peres said.