CHICAGO — American ambassadors urged U.S. executives Monday to do more business with Southeast Asian nations, a growing land of opportunity for American firms.
The diplomats spoke to executives of more than 200 Chicago-area companies on the second stop of a tour aimed at strengthening America's presence in Southeast Asia.
"The people of Singapore are eager to do business with Americans. They can't understand why there aren't more Americans out there," Ambassador Robert Orr said.
U.S. representatives to Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand also spoke at the conference.
Most executives at the conference were from small businesses hoping for a foothold in a fast-growing market. The combined gross domestic product of the five countries plus Brunei grew by an average of 7% over the past 10 years.
Some of the executives said they are looking to Southeast Asia for new business.
Robert H. Thielker, president of Vista Equipment Co. of Crawfordsville, Ind., said he hopes to sell railroad construction and inspection equipment to Southeast Asian countries as they upgrade and expand their transportation systems.
Bi-Huei Wang, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Taiwan who heads Skokie-based Wang, Reidel & Associates Inc., sees opportunities for his company's engineering consulting services as the nations of Southeast Asia build power dams.
Samuel Gall, national accounts manager for Triangle Package Machinery Co. of Chicago, said the Southeast Asian market for food-packaging machinery will ripen as automation modernizes the food-processing industry there.
"Recently, our sales outside the United States have increased, and we're trying to be more proactive" in finding representatives for Triangle products abroad, Gall said.
He said one of Triangle's strongest competitors is a Japanese company that will probably be hunting new customers in Southeast Asia too.