Businesses across the state of Washington have been discovering the exciting growth opportunities in the global marketplace. With the support of the Washington State Department of Commerce, many businesses have begun successfully exporting their products to new foreign markets.
Over the last several generations, Anderson Hay & Grain Co., Inc. has become the leading exporter of hay and straw products, specializing in timothy hay, alfalfa hay and grass straw products. Customers from Asia to the Middle East prize the company’s hay and grain products.
Exporting forms the foundation of Anderson Hay & Grain’s business, and the company ranks as one of the top 50 exporters in the United States! The company’s nimbleness, openness to new ideas, and strategically-based port facilities near the Port of Tacoma and the Port of Seattle enabled the company to export efficiently and build a broad customer base overseas.
A 60-year-old family-owned business explored new markets with the Washington State Department of Commerce trade specialists, opening new opportunities in Europe, Asia and Canada.
For 60 years, the family owned and operated B&G Machine has specialized in remanufacturing diesel engines and component machining. From its start serving the timber industry, the company has broadened its client base to more industries and today its engines operate in locations around the world, both on land and at sea. The company’s state-of-the-art facilities in Seattle’s SoDo industrial district now include a new engine assembly operation with one of the largest engine dynamometers in the world.
Western Washington’s timber industry was the main source of customers for B&G engines until logging began to decline in the 1990s. Surviving meant modernizing the company’s operations and reaching out to new industries. By 1998, the nimble B&G had expanded to mining, marine, power generation, oil and gas with customers throughout the western U.S. and Canada. Having reaped the benefits of diversification, the company next set its sights overseas where the complexity of tariffs, customs agents and cold calls to international buyers required yet another adjustment to meeting customer demands.
As B&G’s vice president of finance and administration, Johnny Bianchi, along with his brother, David, vice president in charge of sales and marketing, successfully marshaled the company’s entrée to global trade, some obstacles were a little easier to overcome with assistance from the Washington State Department of Commerce. B&G had begun remanufacturing diesel engines from China, but ran into trouble when it was time to ship them back. Tractus Asia, Commerce’s long-time representative in China, stepped in to negotiate with Chinese customs brokers and freight forwarders. “It was like trying to thread a needle,” Johnny Bianchi said. “Tractus understood how to thread that needle.”
The company also encountered challenges close to home. Trying to send a B&G employee to Canada to work on an engine became so expensive, the company almost abandoned the project. But before the company gave up for good, Commerce trade specialists helped B&G make the right connection with the Canadian border service. That connection helped B&G find the procedures and requirements for temporary foreign workers so they will be in full compliance when the B&G technician was standing with his bags at the border. Now, Bianchi said, “Commerce is on the call list when we have an international problem.”
That trust and confidence played a role when Commerce was recruiting companies for a delegation to the 2012 Hannover Messe industrial trade show in Germany. But international trade shows are costly, and the Bianchis wanted reassurance the show was worth the investment of time and money. Commerce helped defray the cost by awarding the company an export voucher in 2012 that was funded through Commerce by the Small Business Administration’s State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) program [the program was renamed in 2016 as the State Trade Expansion Program]. That program helped small businesses begin exporting or increase their export sales. Along with the voucher, Commerce also helped B&G make high-impact connections with potential customers in the European market. “One of the big things for us was meeting the right people,” said David Bianchi. “Commerce helped match us with prospective companies, and kept us on track for meeting all our appointments.” The company also came away with a potential new market to explore—rebuilding gear boxes for wind turbines—and a first-hand look at the strategies of their European competitors.
After the April 2012 Hannover show, B&G Machine closed several deals that helped propel the company toward its goals of raising export volume by 19 percent for the year and improve its already strong international sales, which prior to the show, accounted for 40 percent of B&G sales volume. “We really took big steps forward at Hannover,” said Johnny Bianchi, “and having the support of Commerce was huge.”
How support from the Washington State Department of Commerce helped this automotive research provider get a foothold in China.
Enprecis, an emerging data services provider in Seattle, is a startup success story that is helping the global automotive industry get closer to its customers. The company’s Continuous Quality Insight (CQI) software helps car makers manage and respond to customer feedback on such brands as Jaguar, Land Rover, Chrysler, Fiat, Alfa-Romeo, Hyundai, Mazda, and Volkswagen. CQI tracks product quality and customer feedback from multiple channels including mobile apps, customer service call centers and online surveys. The data collected by CQI helps manufacturers improve vehicle quality and design while preventing recalls and increasing customer loyalty.
When Enprecis’s customers in the United Kingdom wanted help collecting feedback from their buyers in China, the company needed to hit the ground running in a complex market where it had little experience. But the savvy management at Enprecis knew where to look for help to get started.
Since the company had an eye on finding partners in China, it made them a good fit for the Washington State Department of Commerce’s China Accelerator, a business incubator offered through Tractus, the agency’s long-time representative in Asia. The Accelerator offers qualifying companies access to a broad range of business incubator services, including:
Enprecis’s goal was to work with an established entity for operating in China while the company determined the requirements for formal operations there. “The Accelerator has very successfully fulfilled that role for us,” said Richard Counihan, Enprecis chief executive officer, “and Tractus has been very helpful with employee contracts and setting up operations outside of the Accelerator.” Growth through its operations in China helped create new jobs at the company’s Seattle offices. The company was also named Emerging Trader of the Year by the World Trade Club in April 2012.
Enprecis was also a member of Governor Chris Gregoire’s trade mission to the Paris Air Show in 2011, which Counihan says contributed to getting hard-to-obtain meetings with leading industry executives and closing two solid deals with European car makers. “The rest of the world views government as critical in business development,” Counihan said. “Having a relationship with the government gives you credibility in the extreme global marketplaces.”
Since its start in 2007, Enprecis had grown to 30 employees in 2012, including 25 in the U.S (22 in Seattle), with exports and foreign-owned manufacturers accounting for about 80 percent of sales in 10 different countries, including China, Russia, Italy, United Kingdom, Australia, France, Japan, Korea, Canada and Mexico.
This Tacoma company successfully leveraged STEP support through the Export Voucher and Europe Market Accelerator programs to increase its export sales by more than $500,000.
General Plastics Manufacturing is a leading innovator in polyurethane foam and provides unique chemistry-based solutions that support engineer and design teams in diverse industries such as composites, aerospace, tooling and prototyping. This Tacoma company successfully leveraged STEP support through the Export Voucher and Europe Market Accelerator programs to increase its export sales by more than $500,000.
General Plastics first participated in the STEP program with an Export Voucher to offset the expenses of attending the JEC Composites Show in Paris in March 2014. The experience convinced the company to join the Washington State Department of Commerce (Commerce) delegation the following year at JEC, a decision that provided immediate export results with a strong outlook for future growth.
"We gained more than $100,000 in aerospace orders and $25,000 in tooling materials," said Brian Sweeney, the company’s sales director. In addition to 53 qualified leads, General Plastics Mfg. Co. met with a dozen existing key accounts and obtained valuable competitive information.
Enabling small businesses to attend some of the largest international trade shows, which can produce huge benefits but at a cost of thousands of dollars, is a cornerstone of the Commerce STEP program. The initiative has contributed to an overall aggregate of $200 million in new export sales among the 450 small businesses that have participated in the STEP program to date.
A growing mobile technology company opens the door to new partner contacts overseas after the Washington State Department of Commerce comes knocking with export assistance
With its groundbreaking, real-time location-sharing app of the same name, Glympse reinforces Washington State’s position as the leading center for mobile services innovation.
The Seattle company’s product lets users privately share their location via a smart phone with only those individuals they select for as long or short a timeframe as they like, from a few seconds to a few hours. Recipients can view the user’s location without any special software, or even the app itself—they only need web access to view the sender’s ongoing location.
The app is faster and easier than a text or email, and shows the user’s estimated time of arrival and real-time proximity to their destination. Among endless possible uses, sending a Glympse can keep colleagues at off-site meetings up-to-date on a delayed arrival, reassure the parents of a roaming teenager or give carpool drivers a way to alert passengers when they’re close to their pick-up point.
After a strong launch in the United States, Glympse was ready to expand its range and partner with third-party consumer and enterprise solutions, a focus that included international customers. The company needed a forum that would put them in front of top executives at global wireless carriers, mobile network operators and auto manufacturers.
One place that gathers thousands of these potential customers in one place is the annual Mobile World Congress (MWC), the preeminent trade show for the mobile industry. “MWC is by far the best mobile communications event in Europe,” said Timo Bauer, Glympse’s vice president of business development. “It’s also the best opportunity to get exposure to top executives and decision makers”.
With support of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s State Trade Expansion Program (STEP), which is administered in Washington State by the state Department of Commerce, Glympse was able to establish a strong presence and create strong business relationships at MWC 2012 and again in 2013.
Glympse saw its opportunity to attend the show after a call initiated by Commerce international trade specialist, Wistar Kay, who was recruiting small businesses to join a Washington State MWC delegation of companies interested in finding new export opportunities overseas. The STEP program provided the money Glympse needed to defray the costs of participating, with the added bonus of Commerce’s business development representative in Europe helping to identify potential partners and set up appointments for one-to-one meetings at the show.
STEP funds helped Glympse maximize its efforts for the greatest impact at Mobile World Congress, and credits part of its anticipated European sales growth of 25% in 2013 to the show. “Attending Mobile World Congress for us was critical, as there were major European partners that could accelerate our growth and business models,” said Bryan Trussel, co-founder and chief executive officer at Glympse. “The Export Voucher program helped us to attend MWC and allowed us to do several months and several trips worth of business in a matter of days.”
The company carried that momentum forward when it joined Governor Chris Gregoire’s trade mission to Ireland and the United Kingdom in 2012. The company used its participation on the mission to promote Glympse technology as an in-dash location sharing tool for automobiles, as recently exemplified by its partnership with Mercedes Benz for integration in the A-Class DriveStyle automobile, set to launch in September.
“The mission with Gov. Gregoire was an important opportunity for us to build on our knowledge and success of existing auto and mobile relationships and carry that momentum to new areas with potential London partners,” Trussel said. “We met with executives and brands with which we’re excited to continue conversations. This trade mission has helped open the doors to a more global business approach for Glympse, and has efficiently connected us to new opportunities.”
A young Seattle-based software company connected with key players in international mobile advertising as part of a Washington State Department of Commerce trade delegation to Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February, 2012. Two years later and they're still feeling the love.
HasOffers provides tracking software for businesses that require reconciliation between advertising campaigns and the publishers who deliver traffic to those campaigns via the web, email marketing, and mobile. The company's fee-based services operate from the cloud and provide scalable, customizable programs to manage affiliate partners, create and manage advertising offers, track conversions and sales, and prevent fraud, among other functions.
Founded in 2009 in Seattle by twin brothers, Lucas and Lee Brown, HasOffers continues to double revenue year over year, employs more than 190 employees, serves 10,000 customers and tracks about $500 million in advertising. The company has garnered awards in Washington State including "Service Provider of the Year" from the Washington Technology Industry Association to "Best Boostrapped Startup" from GeekWire. [Bootstrapped describes companies that are self-financed or profitable without external angel or venture capital.]
As a web-based solution, HasOffers considered itself an international business by nature, but at the end of 2011, had done little to expand to key markets in Europe. “The European market, especially for mobile advertising, represented an enormous potential for new clients, which is why we were so eager to explore how we might effectively do business abroad,” said Peter Hamilton, chief marketing officer at HasOffers. But the company was still working through where and how to get started.
The breakthrough resulted from the Washington State Department of Commerce-led business delegation to Mobile World Congress, the mobile industry’s leading trade event held annually in Barcelona. Joining the delegation meant no-cost access to networking events, market intelligence developed by Commerce’s Europe representatives and introductions to potential business partners. At the end of the four-day congress, HasOffers had made multiple connections to potential new buyers, and expectations for forecasted sales growth as a result.
Being part of the delegation also qualified HasOffers for financial support to offset the cost of attending Mobile World Congress, one of the most expensive mobile industry trade shows. The company received $4,000 through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s State Trade and Export Promotion grant [the program was renamed the State Trade Expansion Program in 2016], which was administered in Washington by Commerce from 2011 to 2013 to boost exports by small businesses.
"The investment by the STEP program in HasOffers not only opened doors for direct commercial relationships and partnerships in the early stages of our international development, but it also opened our eyes to where we needed to be investing in the future," Hamilton said. "STEP made it possible for us to make our first trip to Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, but it also showed us that we need to do everything we can to have a strong presence at that event and in EMEA [Europe, Middle East and Africa] at large, which we might not have known otherwise.”
Today 40 percent of HasOffers revenue comes from international customers, and at least five of the company's top 20 international client relationships came from conversations that started at its first Mobile World Congress. The show's momentum also prompted HasOffers to host a booth itself in 2014, with a 15-person delegation of its own to staff it.
Said Hamilton, "Being on the ground, and on the front lines in EMEA is extremely important in the global economy of online and mobile, and we're grateful to the STEP program for how it impacted us."
MetalTech, Inc., a contract manufacturer in Sumner, Wash., has built a steady and loyal customer base for its turnkey manufacturing, fabrication and assembly products and services. The company is a leading supplier to a range of industries including automotive, commercial, industrial, medical, military and research laboratories.
in 2010, MetalTech set its sights on the aerospace sector for its growing future. But this hungry company dismissed the idea of tip-toeing into this competitive market. Instead it moved aggressively with a well-timed strategy that coincided with the worldwide boom in aerospace, capped by its first-time attendance at the Farnborough Air Show in July 2012, one of the two largest airshows in the world. MetalTech was one of 50 companies that joined a state delegation to the United Kingdom, led by Governor Christine Gregoire.
Since the Governor’s participation was expected to attract broad attention to the delegation, MetalTech saw its chief opportunity at the show as one of exposure to new customers overseas. But Commerce trade specialists supporting the delegation added additional value. They made sure MetalTech had one-on-one meetings with strong prospective new customers and met the right people among the tens of thousands of attendees. “We began to think, ‘why can’t we come away with some PO’s (purchase orders),’” said TJ Richards, MetalTech’s general manager.
The show also provided MetalTech with a deeper understanding of the global aerospace market from other exhibitors at the show as well as from fellow members of the Washington delegation. Seeing the other exhibitors also sparked a bit of state pride. “We saw other states exhibiting at the show and it got my blood going,” Richards said. “Washington is the center for aerospace.”
The experience validated and reinforced what has long been a MetalTech work ethic. “At Farnborough, it became clear to us that the way to compete globally is through our efficiency,” Richards said. “If a competitor produces a part in five steps, we will do it in four and still win that contract with our emphasis on quality.”
In just under a year after the show, Washington companies that participated reported a total of actual and projected sales of just under $12.5 million. MetalTech picked up a number of high-ticket orders resulting from contacts made at the show, enough to keep their shop of 50 employees, up from 16 in 2010, busy for the near and long term. “The show and all the work that Commerce did for us exceeded our expectations,” added Robert Edmondson, MetalTech’s corporate accounts and business development manager. “We wouldn’t have gained any business from Farnborough without Commerce.”
A water sports equipment manufacturer in the Columbia River Gorge maintains a nimble export strategy that helps it reach customers in 60 countries.
Jeff and Tony Logosz, the founding brothers of Slingshot Sports, turned their love of water sports in the Columbia River Gorge into an internationally recognized brand of kiteboards and wakeboards that has raised the bar for graphic design, flexibility and durability. From the company’s manufacturing facility in North Bonneville, Wash., Slingshot continues to grow its success by testing and implementing new technologies and being an active participant in the tight-knit community of water sports enthusiasts and competitors.
Slingshot kiteboards helped create the market for the sport at a time when there were few competitors and the company quickly found distributors eager to take their products to international markets. It started when a distributor from the United Kingdom landed at the Slingshot offices to say he wanted to import its kiteboards. “We looked up at him and said, ‘how do we do that?’” said Jeff Logosz. “We quickly realized that the world market is much bigger than just one U.S. market, and for us to be a global market share leader with brand recognition, we had to play on the global scale.”
By the new millennium, Slingshot had become a seasoned exporter, thanks to its network of faithful distributors. But when it expanded to wakeboards, the market was a little different. “We were entering a more mature market,” he said. “Suddenly our customers weren’t coming to see us, we had to go to them.”
The expanded product line provided an opportunity for Slingshot to fine-tune its export strategy. At a 2012 export skills training for rural businesses sponsored by the Washington State Department of Commerce with funds provided by the U.S. Small Business Administration’s State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) program [renamed the State Trade Expansion Program in 2016], the company learned how to leverage credit insurance and export financing to broaden its appeal to foreign buyers. The brothers also received advice on how to save thousands on developing overseas relationships during a one-on-one consultation with a Commerce trade specialist. Since then, Slingshot has also received Export Vouchers to offset the costs of attending key international trade shows. As of September 2015, more than three years since Slingshot attended the Commerce Export 101 seminar, the company’s ROI for each dollar of STEP support is close to 1,000 percent.
“Commerce showed us that instead of spending $50,000 on a trade show, we could spend $10,000 to $15,000 on a road show instead,” Logosz said. The company did just that, using an export voucher from Commerce with funding provided by the STEP program, to offset the costs of setting up a central meeting location in Europe in 2012 where they met with potential buyers from around the continent. The road show delivered a sales boost well above expectations and a repeat trip is in the works for 2013.
Slingshot’s eagerness to grow its global brand has fueled the company’s rapid-fire sales growth and validated its commitment to shift the manufacture of its wakeboards, kiteboards and standup paddle race boards from Asia to the U.S. “It was a big gamble and everybody thought we were nuts, including my board of directors,” Logosz said. Now what the company saves on shipping and protecting their intellectual property gets reinvested in the business, including creating new jobs for this rural community. “Our mantra is, ‘China is cancelled,’” Logosz said.
Stemilt Growers takes pride in growing world-famous and nutritious apples, pears and cherries using sustainable agricultural methods.
The family-owned company has grown fruit on Stemilt Hill since 1893. Today Stemilt Growers exports their fruit, especially apples, to 26 countries around the world.
Swype enables mobile device users to input words faster and easier than other data input methods - at over 40 words per minute.
Swype’s goal is to be the default keyboard on every touch-screen device, and they may just have met that goal: Swype can now be found on more than 6 billion devices. The company understands the importance of exporting, and its representatives regularly travel overseas to meet with potential customers.
Since 1990 Wood Stone Ovens has sold its specialty ovens in 75+ countries around the world. Its product lineup has expanded from stone hearth ovens and wood-fired rotisseries to a dynamic mix of theater and specialty restaurant cooking equipment: Tandoor Ovens, Duck Ovens, Satay Grills, Pita Bread Ovens and Vertical Churrasco Style Rotisseries.
Merill Bevan, vice president of international sales, believes exporting helped the company develop more diverse products. As the sales team traveled more frequently to meet overseas customers, they learned more about customers’ needs and Wood Stone’s potential in the international marketplace. The production team turned that knowledge into better, more innovative products.