Small windmill manufacturer shines in world market

Minnesota State Roundup

Published October 1, 1993  | October 1993 issue

World Power Technologies is proof that company size has little to do with success in foreign markets.

The six-person Duluth-based company will export 70 percent of the more than 200 small wind-powered electric generators it manufactures in 1993.

World Power Technologies' windmills are designed largely for homeowners and farmers in remote locations. Since starting operations in 1989, the company has shipped to such far-off nations as South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Japan.

Company president Elliott Bayly relies on marketing largely through dealers because "it's impossible for our size company to reach the end users." While customers often learn of the company by word-of-mouth, World Technologies advertises in several US environmentally conscious publications. And if he can exhibit at a trade show for a reasonable fee, Bayly says, he'll participate in that.

Although he has "flirted with doing business in Russia and other Eastern European countries," Bayly's focus is on expanding business in Mexico and South America. To reach those potential customers, World Power publishes a sales brochure in Spanish. Although the company has sold some windmills in Argentina, business in Latin America has been somewhat disappointing to Bayly.

Mexico especially is an untapped market, Bayly says, describing one potential customer: a small, rural village without electricity. "For $2,000 they can have electricity, and that's far cheaper than extending main power lines," he adds. "Even if each home could have one light, it would be an improvement. Their kids could read at night."

Bayly expects the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to have a positive impact on his business. "If NAFTA can just make the flow of parts to and from customers easier, it would certainly lighten our load," he says.

Regardless of the outcome of NAFTA, Wind Power contends with burdening paperwork and shipping logistic nightmares, amounting to what Bayly calls "the hassle cost." For example, to send 100 service bulletins with a small replacement part through the US Postal Service to dealers abroad, a customs form is needed for each package. Shipping costs are high and customers often incur extra costs to retrieve packages, not to mention customs bottlenecks.

But despite the additional difficulties and costs in exporting, Bayly imagines a bright future in an almost unlimited market: "There are 6 billion people in the world and over one-half don't have electricity."

Kathy Cobb