Before I go into the activities of the day, I want to take a moment to introduce you to an inspiring woman, Ms. Su Su Hlaing. Su Su is my host for the final few days of my exchange in Myanmar but that’s the least exciting sliver of a life spent caring for and supporting her 400+ employees of the Winning Security Group Co., LTD. If that were her only accomplishment, a successful business woman providing jobs to over 400 people in and around Yangon, that would probably be enough for most of us, not for Ms. Su Su. In addition to managing the company, providing a steady pay check, training and job skills for her employees, she has deep knowledge, both academic and practical about international trade and development and is one of the movers and shakers in the evolution of the Myanmar economy. She is often called upon by public and private sector organizations to mentor the owners small and medium sized businesses and start-up entrepreneurs. Additionally, with what little time she has left she volunteers to assist on human trafficking issues in Myanmar. All of this and she is raising her children, two active early teen boys along with her husband. This is a person, like so many that I have met in Myanmar, that care deeply about the future of their county and the people who live here and are passionate about bringing the positive economic change already taking hold. I am inspired by her results. Like me, she is focused on the outcome, less the process. She gets things done and people in her country are taking notice. I am fortunate to know her and have the benefit of many long conversations with Su Su about the bright future of Myanmar.
We started the day at the Mahar Shwe Lan Thit Sann Co., LTD. a sustainable furniture manufacturing operation in the East Dagon Township just outside of Yangon. In his factory Mr. Myint Thein the Managing Director employs over 20 people (laborers, carpenters, painters, designers, finishers) in the production of his furniture. This is not your run-of-the mill end table. Mr. Thein’s furniture is functional art, finely constructed of some of the most beautiful tropical woods in the world. Interestingly, Mr. Thein’s furniture is made from some of the lesser well know woods of the region. Why? Desire for teak furniture is high both in Myanmar and in neighboring countries. Mr. Thein is keenly aware that the teak and other popular wood forests are in danger of disappearing if attitudes on the use of other, less well known tree species, does not change. He is committed to displaying the beauty and utility of more populous, but historically less popular, tree species to take some of the commercial pressure off of the teak industry. Using his skill and business acumen, Mr. Thein has created a sustainable model for his products, but it doesn’t stop there. Mr. Thein is also providing training and job skills for his employees so they to can become independent and successful in this growing industry. More skilled workers available adding value to raw materials one employee at a time.
Next we toured the Phyo Scaffolding and Pipe Co. This operation is managed by the nephew of Ms. Su Su. His company employs about 40 people of varying degrees of skill and expertise including pipe fitters and welders, grinders, press-men and other industrial functions. Phyo receives raw pipe from foundries in China and turns this pipe stock of varying sizes into scaffolding, floor jacks and other construction related uses. The also wholesale the raw pipe to other fabricators. Their business has grown dramatically over the past 8 years they have been in business. In fact, Phyo is expanding its operation onto the adjacent lot to accommodate the growth. More employees will be needed to handle the increases. Skills training is an important part of both of the factories we toured.
After a traditional Myanmar buffet style lunch we scuttled off to meet an old friend of Ms. Su Su, Professor San-Weon Oh of the Dong Yang Co and Korea Information Marketing Research and his associate Mr. Jong Yuen Lim of Inverter Tech. Here on business from South Korea, Professor Oh has been working in Myanmar for several years advising government officials on the emerging economy and providing advice and guidance on the evolution of investment law and other vehicles of FDI (foreign direct investment). This is insight that is incredibly valuable to anyone interested in the policy changes going on now in Myanmar. While visiting with Professor Oh and Mr. Lim in the hotel veranda we happened upon a traditional wedding ceremony where I was allowed to take a few photos, including one with the bride and groom.
Ms. Su Su is know for another talent, shopping. Apparently she knows all the best places to find good quality items at reasonable prices. This morning we are headed to the markets to put those skills in play. This afternoon we are scheduled to meet with some local private business owners. Tomorrow, my final day in Myanmar, we round out the exchange with a visit to the National Planning and Development Office in Yangon for a final discussion on the state of affairs as well as the long-term outlook for Myanmar’s rapid rise onto the world economic stage. This is a challenging but exciting time here. You can see the optimism in the smiling eyes of the people and hear the enthusiasm in their voices.
City of Bozeman MT
Brit Fontenot | Director of Economic Development