Vietnam lures WTO/HME manufacturers

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam -- As the glow of foreign investment dims in China, the lights are brightening further south in Vietnam where the wages are only half as expensive, literacy is high and nearly two-thirds of the country were born after the war known here as the American War.
Two HME manufacturers are currently making product outside this city, and a third is building a factory that's scheduled to launch operations this winter. That fairly well-known company prefers to remain undisclosed at present but the cane maker Mountain Properties and Powertrike, a maker of wheelchair accessories, say the country is a viable and attractive.
"This is a whole country in the throes of immense and dramatic change," said Gerry Vineberg, an executive at Mountain Properties, which claims a 2% share of the U.S. cane market and private labels product for Invacare Supply, McKesson and Cardinal. "I chose Saigon [officially called Ho Chi Minh City] because it was growing and it was affordable.
Vietnam now exports about $5 billion in goods to the United States, a number that's likely to rise if the country gains admission to the World Trade Organization as expected in December. For its stable government, its size and its decent trade relations, international commentators are calling out Vietnam as the next best thing to China.
PowerTrike, which makes an accessory that converts a manual chair to a power chair, followed a high-end cycle manufacturer from Taiwan to Vietnam.
"The workforce in Vietnam is competitive, and they learn quickly," said Malcom Tune of PowerTrike. "The quality is usually excellent once standards are set. Part of my work is developing new products in liaison with the factory. It's a joy to get same-day prototypes / drawings, but that's partly, if not mainly, due to the excellence of the management."