French Representative Finds Old Friend in Woellfer / They Aided Illinois and France; Now They Seek Opportunity for Okc and France

Article excerpt

Tuesday's visit to Oklahoma City was more than just a routine get-acquainted trip for Pascal Maccioni, Southwest commercial counsellor for France, though it was his first time here.

It was a trip that could mean business for Oklahoma City and France, if the past is any kind of prologue.

That's because Maccioni and Michael T. Woelffer started a series of business deals between French and Illinois firms when Woelffer was director of the Illinois Department of Commerce. Maccioni was commercial counsellor in Chicago at that time.

Now, Woelffer is director of economic and community development for the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, and Maccioni is based in Houston. The places have changed, but basically they like doing business with each other.

"Mike is a good man to work with," said Maccioni. "He knows what I'm looking for, so we don't have to spend a lot of time on small talk.

"My first job is to identify Oklahoma firms and investors who are capable and interested in international trade. Then, we try to get them together with companies in France."

Maccioni, who is one of 10 French commercial counsellors in America, is responsible for Texas, Louisiana and Kansas as well as Oklahoma. He was here looking for three basic kinds of business:

- Markets for imported French products in Oklahoma.

- Joint ventures between Oklahoma and French companies to work together on products marketed on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

- French investments in Oklahoma business and Oklahoma investors for French business.

"In all cases," he said, "international trade works well only if there are incentives for both sides. The day of one side dominating the other is gone. We must have balance - an equilibrium of opportunities."

Imported French products can help Oklahoma's economy by providing more sources of supplies and new products for importers, distributors and manufacturers, said Maccioni, thereby improving their business.

Even in the case of wine, French imports have helped business in America, Maccioni pointed out.

"French wine helped Americans develop a taste for wine," he said. "Now, more wine from California, Germany and Italy is sold in America. So we helped the California wine business."

However, the French economy has grown far beyond its original base of agriculture products (incuding wine) and agriculture equipment in the last two or three decades.

"France is now easily one of five most powerful nations of the world economically," said Maccioni. "Our leading industries are aerospace and telecommunications, and not far behind are electronics and data processing.

"Our high technology is primarily in computer software and telecommunications networks."

This has been achieved despite a late start for France in high technology, and that is a good sign for Oklahoma, said Maccioni. France has a well-educated work force that has adapted well to high technology.

"Oklahoma is where France was a few years ago, when we were trying to diversify," he said. "We did it, and so can Oklahoma. There are no secrets. It's a matter of developing good products and marketing them.

"I feel there will be opportunities for small manufacturers in Oklahoma to work out joint ventures with firms in France to help both sides."

CMI Corp. of Oklahoma City already has a joint venture in France, and Maccioni planned to visit with President Gabe Zablatnick, president of Little Giant Pump Co. …