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Local companies plug in to Nigeria

By Cynthia Vinarsky

Wednesday, October 10, 2001

Both companies expect the hospital work to lead to other contracts with the African investors.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Two longtime Youngstown businesses have chalked up a combined total of more than $300,000 in new international business by providing signs and electrical equipment for a Nigerian medical center.
The Aramed Centre, a hospital under construction in Lagos, Nigeria, will feature lighted, digital signs created by The Jenkins Sign Co., and much of its electrical wiring and equipment is coming from Yesco Electrical Supply.
Medical equipment left idle when Youngstown Osteopathic Hospital closed in spring 2000 also will be getting a new lease on life at the center. The equipment was purchased in a liquidation sale of furniture and equipment the hospital estate conducted a year ago.
Rich Berg of Jenkins Sign and Jeff Latimer of Yesco say the African investment firm representative probably called them because he was in town to buy the YOH equipment, but they're convinced that their service is what made the sales.
First contact: Berg, who calls the Nigerian deal "my most memorable sale ever," said he was more than a little skeptical when a representative of the Africa-based Modan Dalo Group first called him at 4 p.m. on a Friday afternoon.
The man spoke with a heavy accent and said he was calling from a Boardman hotel."I wondered if it was legitimate," Berg recalled.
The investors eventually bought two signs, one with a digital message board, for a total purchase and shipping price topping $70,000. The signs are being shipped to Baltimore this week and should be installed at the new hospital in time for its opening in November.
Meanwhile, Latimer said Yesco was contacted several months after the investors bought the YOH equipment and asked to supply the electrical wiring, panels and other equipment needed to adapt the equipment to Nigeria's voltage system.
Africa's electrical system is different from what is standard in the United States, he said. Yesco sold about $250,000 worth of equipment to the company.
Future projects: Latimer said Yesco expects to have the chance to bid on two other projects Modan Dalo has planned in the United States. He's been in contact with the firm's representative by e-mail monthly.
Berg said he also asked the representative about the prospect of future business with the company. "He told me, 'I can give you all of Africa.' I'm not sure what that means," he said. "I'm hoping they're building a whole bunch of these places all over Africa and we can do the signs."