This was supposed to be the year that CalComp, the Anaheim computer graphics manufacturer, made headway in cracking the Middle East market.
Through June of this year, the company's exports to the Middle East jumped 42%, to $1 million, from the same period last year. And the company was projecting that exports to the region would double by year's end.
But after Iraqi troops swept into Kuwait and occupied the tiny oil-rich nation, "our business in the Middle East literally has come to a standstill," said Larry Sanders, CalComp's sales and marketing manager. "A number of our shipments enroute to that region were secured by letters of credit from banks in Kuwait."
CalComp isn't the only Orange County company that is beginning to feel the pinch from trouble in the Persian Gulf.
Unless oil prices drop in the next few days, the county's exporters and importers say they expect to be paying higher transportation costs.
"The steamship companies that I spoke to Monday are adopting a wait-and-see attitude and they told me they'd know in 10 days if prices will rise or not," said Kathleen Riggs of Tansey & Riggs, an El Toro freight forwarder.
"Basically, if you go and charter a vessel now for a sailing to take place in the next month, you'd have a hard time finding a price because of the uncertainty of the fuel cost," said Dave Carden, president of Nedrac, a Costa Mesa freight-forwarding company that charters vessels for exporters. "Everybody's very nervous."
There is some consolation, though, for U.S. traders: Many of their foreign competitors face similar problems now that their governments have joined the call for economic sanctions against Iraq.