The World Affairs Council of Atlanta’s Founders Day celebration Aug. 19 featured a speech by its new chairman, David Abney, the chief operating officer of United Parcel Services Inc., who was counseled not to use visual aids and to deliver substance.
Declining to comply completely, Mr. Abney invited the founders of Alpharetta-based Cellairis Franchise Inc. to join him at UPS headquarters in Sandy Springs as his visual aids for his tribute to the global economy. Cellairis is the world’s largest franchiser of wireless accessories including phone cases, screen protectors and arm bands.
The firm’s three founders – Taki Skouras and the twins Jaime and Joseph Brown — entered into business when they were undergraduates at the University of Florida, starting with a nightclub promotions firm. They launched Cellairis in a friends’ garage and started selling at the Perimeter Mall.
Thirteen years later, they now sell their products throughout the Americas and Europe.
“Cellairis develops products in Georgia…manufactures them in Asia…imports them back to our state by air freight…warehouses them in its distribution center in Alpharetta…and then ships them by ground and air to franchisees,” Mr. Abney said while introducing the entrepreneurs and acknowledging that all of the back-and-forth was good for UPS business.
But even such a rapidly growing firm with highly desirable products in global markets faces problems, he added. “Cellairis – like so many other companies – faces obstacles to global trade and, therefore, its growth,” he told the 200 council members attending the evening reception.
Aware that he was “preaching to the choir” of the World Affairs Council that in only its fourth year has grown to include more than 1,000 members, Mr. Abney went on to dissect the impediments to free trade including tariffs, custom fees and the tariff codes, customs regulations and documentation requirements “that add time and confusion to the process.”
He also underscored his concerns about the impact of these impediments on trade generally.
“The notion that one nation’s success at exporting is another’s failure is no longer true,” he said, defending the importance of imports as well as exports to the health of a country’s economy.
Additionally, he said, that trade often, if not always, helps generate peace among trading partners and alleviates poverty. Having grown up in the Mississippi Delta where he began his career at UPS as a delivery truck driver, he said that he returns home and holds a town meeting every year where he defends his vision of free trade as a means of reducing poverty.
“Lifting the trade barriers that prevent a peasant artist or craftsman in India, China, or Mexico from selling their wares around the world is the best move we can make to end global poverty in our lifetime,” he said.
The company also is active in humanitarian efforts, he said, whenever disaster strikes, not only on behalf of its 400,000 employees posted around the world, but the communities in which they work as well.
And he voiced his support for the Trans-Atlanta Trade and Investment Partnership that is to be negotiated between the European Union and the U.S. and the Trans-Pacific Partnership being negotiated among the U.S., Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and Japan.
Without going into great detail in response to a question he encouraged companies to abandon security regulations affecting low-risk goods while concentrating on higher risk merchandise by relying on new technologies that can differentiate between the two.