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General will seek a bigger U.S. presence

Canadian-based manufacturer wants to lower reliance on cross-border shipping and gain a larger market share in America

General International's CEO Gilles Guerette, from left, U.S. operations manager Scott Box, sales representative Craig Walls and Tom Guertin, president Christian Chenier, and sales representative Curt Thomas at the 2009 AWFS fair in Las Vegas.

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General International, the Canadian-based machinery manufacturer, is restructuring its U.S. operations in hopes of gaining a greater market share. Company officials say that as cross-border shipping costs, customs clearance bureaucracy and fees continue to rise, it makes sense to bring stock closer to its U.S.-based distributors.

"The way we see it, when the economy picks up - and it will eventually pick up - we will be even better positioned to respond to the increased demand and our customers' needs than we ever were before," says Norman Frampton, General's product manager.

"We are convinced that the primary thing that has held us back, or limited our growth in the U.S. market, is accessibility of the product. Both for the user at the retail level, where depending on where you are in the country our products have not always been easy to find, and for the distributors who stock and sell our product, who have had to deal with slightly longer delivery lead times because of the border and slightly higher minimum-order requirements to qualify for prepaid shipments."

Scott Box, former president of Powermatic and Steel City Tool Works, has assumed the role of operations manager for General's newly expanded U.S. division. Box is currently overseeing the development of General's first U.S.-based warehouse and distribution center. The new facilities will most likely be located in Tennessee, but the exact location and an opening date have yet to be determined.

"The ultimate goal of the distribution center is to maintain adequate supplies of everything that's in our 200-plus page catalog to meet demand. Obviously, it will take some tweaking and fine-tuning over time, but it will probably start with regular stock transfers from our Montreal distribution center and we'll move forward from there," says Frampton.

In addition, four new sales representatives have been added to the U.S. team. Each agent works out of their own local office within their respective territory.

Canada has always been General's strongest market, accounting for about 65 percent of the company's worldwide sales. U.S. sales have peaked at about 35 percent. General also has distributors in Japan, Australia, South Korea, Norway and France.

"Because the economic slowdown has hit harder in the U.S., our U.S. numbers now represent a little over 10 percent of our global total," says Frampton. "We conservatively anticipate that with the changes we are making, as business recovers, the U.S. could easily represent 50 percent of our total global sales."

Contact: General International, 8360 Champ-d'Eau, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H1P 1Y3. Tel: 888-949-1161.

This article originally appeared in the September 2009 issue.

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