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Case Study: In faraway markets, Ontario machinery maker builds solid business

Since 1973, Corma Inc. has produced corrugated plastic pipe manufacturing machinery and equipment with a focus on international markets. Stefan Lupke, executive vice-president, says, “My father, a mechanical engineer from Germany, realized there was a niche market for corrugated pipes, but that the company couldn’t rely just on sales in Canada and in the northern U.S. From the beginning, his strategy was setting up international agency sales offices to promote our products.”

Participation in global trade shows and partnership with Export Development Canada and the Canadian International Development Agency have helped the company create awareness and build relationships. Headquartered in Toronto, Corma now has offices, sales agencies and service centres throughout North America and in Germany, Slovakia, China, Portugal, Turkey, India and Central America.

“Even when the [North American] economy is strong, there is high saturation. Companies have to go out and find new markets. There’s obviously more expense, but we’ve now exported to over 90 different countries.” Stefan Lupke, Executive Vice-President, Corma Inc.

While the company’s markets continue to expand with the need for infrastructure in developing countries, there is still work to be done in branding Canada as a mechanical and technical leader, says Mr. Lupke. “Many of our major projects provide water infrastructure, for which demand continues to grow in India, Africa, China and Central and South America. But our major competitors are German companies, so we’re always fighting that ‘made in Germany’ brand, which is very strong.”

Corma's Management

From the launch of Corma Inc. in 1973, the organization focused on developing sales in foreign markets. The Lupke family, left of photo to right: Annette Kovalik, daughter and senior vice-president, parents and founders Renate and Manfred Lupke, chair and CEO, and Stefan Lupke, son and executive vice-president. Photo: supplied

Organizations such as Corma no longer have the luxury of relying on sales in North America, he says. “Even when the economy is strong, there is high saturation. Companies have to go out and find new markets. There’s obviously more expense, but we’ve now exported to over 90 different countries.”

Partnership with Export Development Canada has enabled the company to leverage opportunity in developing markets with market research and products such as receivables insurance, contract frustration insurance and political risk insurance. “This year, less than 5 per cent of our sales occurred in Canada, and 75 per cent occurred outside of North America. EDC was involved in many of these projects in one way or another,” says Mr. Lupke.

This report was produced by RandallAnthony Communications Inc. (www.randallanthony.com) in conjunction with the advertising department of The Globe and Mail. Grant MacMillan, Category Manager, gmacmillan@globeandmail.com.