New Grand Ocean International
NBDC has been a source of advice and assistance to Harry Hou since before he co-founded the North American branch of New Grand Ocean International in Omaha four years ago.
As a family-owned business headquartered in Thailand, New Grand Ocean International is a leading meat importer and exporter to wholesalers in the restaurant, pet food, fertilizer and fuel industries, averaging annual sales of $72 million. Additionally, New Grand Ocean International assists suppliers with regulation and health inspection compliance within Thailand.
Hou, a University of Nebraska Omaha (UNO) graduate, was working as a personal banker when his family began contemplating opening a North American office and situating it in Omaha.
“My first consultation with NBDC was when we were starting up,” Hou recalls. “That was when I met Veronica Doga (NBDC export consultant, now director of the Procurement Technical Assistance Program), and she was really, really helpful.”
The NBDC team in Omaha provided assistance with a business plan and financial projections. The team helped research what it would take to export meat and meat by-products to Thailand, as well as gather information about relevant U.S. regulations. NBDC also conducted research about the plastics industry and about genetically modified organisms and their consumption worldwide, says Josh Nichol-Caddy, NBDC export consultant and market research analyst.
“Nebraska is a fantastic place to be,” Hou says. “Nebraska is Beef Nation’ and Iowa is Pork Nation.’ This location is very good for us.”
The New Grand Ocean International office in Omaha has grown from a single employee to four full-time employees. Hou also supervises a number of sales managers overseas.
Hou says one of the greatest challenges has been the strength of the U.S. dollar. “We have had to deal with the strong dollar, which has gone up 20 percent,” he says. “Nothing has changed about our business, but because of the strong dollar, our cost goes up 20 percent. If this persists, we have to find a way to add value and diversify.”
Most recently, Hou has sought to expand his product lines to include fish, specifically Asian carp from the Missouri River. Hou’s plan to develop a fish processing facility in Nebraska has been delayed by a lack of fishermen willing to participate. “If we had the supply, we could do it,” he says.
Hou is an active supporter of bilateral trade between Nebraska and the Far East, especially China and Vietnam. He frequently travels overseas and recently returned from a visit to Southeast Asia in anticipation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He also has hosted meetings between potential investors and other stakeholders and representatives of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development and the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce.
“I hope we can finalize and join the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” Hou says. “I believe it would be a source of many opportunities.”