MEMPHIS, Tennessee - A few months ago, a diverse group of the cotton industry's most successful companies launched the world's first truly online, real-time neutral exchange for trading cotton. Today, The Seam is recognized as the world's largest online marketplace.

More than 150,000 bales have been traded through The Seam's system since its first trade on December 8, 2000. The company expects the volume to be in the 2-3-million-bale range by next year. That rate of growth would fit into projections from Forrester Research, an independent research firm that analyzes the future of technology change and its impact on businesses, consumers and society. Forrester projected that business-to-business and business-to-consumer businesses will grow to $6.8 trillion in 2004, with e-marketplaces fueling most of the growth, reaching 53 percent of all online business trade in five years.

The Seam's grower-to-business platform provides an exchange for producers to list their cotton for sale as a firm offer. Growers are then able to entertain bids from a nationwide network of buyers. Selling cotton on The Seam gives growers the most up-to-date price discovery tools in the industry. And, they are able to quickly adjust offers and re-submit their recaps to the largest possible pool of buyers. Currently, The Seam has more than 60 firms buying cotton through the system.

“What I think The Seam does is level the playing field,” explained Louis Baioni, The Seam's founding chief executive officer. “By utilizing this company's services, the small merchant or farmer has the same advantages as the larger players. Once the cotton is offered on the system, it's available to everyone.”

Plus, each producer is assured payment for cotton sold and each buyer is assured trade performance with The Seam's unique Guaranteed Trade feature.

“Security and diversity are the two necessary components for any e-commerce venture to succeed,” said Phillip C. Burnett, The Seam's new CEO. “The strength of our strategic partners in this company is a very big positive for us. I think a lot of people get comfort from such an established ownership group. They know it provides instant credibility and allows us to back up our Guaranteed Trade feature.”

The partners include Dunavant Enterprises, Allenberg Cotton, Hohenberg Brothers Cotton, Avondale Mills, Parkdale Mills, Plains Cotton Cooperative, Staplcotn Cooperative, Calcot Ltd., Anderson-Clayton Corporation, ECOM USA, Inc., Jess Smith & Sons, National Textiles, Paul Reinhart, Inc., and Weil Brothers Cotton, Inc.

Sellers and buyers also benefit from The Seam's powerful search engine. Buyers can establish price, quality, warehouse/gin location, and crop-year parameters, and The Seam selects and displays only those lots that meet the criteria.

The Seam's Web site allows anyone to see the latest trade data through its Live Monitor feature. Live Monitor displays the price, quantity, quality and Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) loan price by traded lot each day. Users also have access to futures prices and charts for all major commodities, weather forecasts, an industry calendar and general news. Market-specific news and analysis by some of the industry's leading analysts also are provided.

Additionally, The Seam is tightly integrated with the industry's cutting-edge electronic warehouse receipt systems. This system was developed by the industry to eliminate the need for paper warehouse receipts, to improve efficiency and reduce costs incurred by gins and cotton buyers, and to expedite shipments to textile mill customers.

Providing a secure online experience is a priority at The Seam. The company's secured servers behind state-of-the-art firewalls safeguard personal information. In addition, transactions are supported by industry-standard data encryption. The Seam uses certificate services to provide customers with an integrated public key infrastructure that enables the secure exchange of information across the Internet. This feature authenticates the identity of each party involved in an electronic transaction.

The Seam's robust e-business infrastructure also enables the delivery of a powerful, reliable, flexible and scalable system that will meet the needs of its customers for years to come.

The Seam is the cotton industry's central meeting place for business-to-business and grower-to-business transactions. The Seam's vision is to provide a comprehensive source of industry products, services and information. From producers to textile mills, The Seam is growing cotton business transactions at Internet speed.