How a small US concrete firm got into global development

    Large multinational corporations aren’t the only businesses engaging in global development these days — despite the many challenges, companies like Cart-Away Concrete Systems show there’s room for smaller firms as well.

    Most of Cart-Away’s business is based in the United States, but the 2010 Haiti earthquake opened the company’s eyes to some of the obstacles for concrete supply chains in developing countries. While in the U.S. processes run seamlessly and are heavily mechanized, in poor nations concrete is often mixed on the ground with shovels using subpar components, Bruce Christensen, general manager of Cart-Away, explained in a video interview with Devex Impact.

    The company helped create The Cement Trust, an NGO that works on cement supply chain challenges in developing countries and seeks to “take the best expertise in the developed world and adapt it to the non-developed world,” he said.

    Christensen noted that even though big donor agencies sometimes have challenges working with smaller companies there are ways to work together.

    “We can make a decision rather quickly, we can make a design rather quickly, we can test something and we can deploy it very quickly. But, our problem is we don’t have the connections in these countries that will allow us to introduce this tech and make it effective,” he said. “That’s where I see the aid organizations, the NGOs — they have the contacts, they know the culture and if we can fit in with them somehow and partner, all the better. There is a shared value there.”

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    About the author

    • Adva Saldinger

      Adva Saldinger is an Associate Editor at Devex, where she covers the intersection of business and international development, as well as U.S. foreign aid policy. From partnerships to trade and social entrepreneurship to impact investing, Adva explores the role the private sector and private capital play in development. A journalist with more than 10 years of experience, she has worked at several newspapers in the U.S. and lived in both Ghana and South Africa.