Doug Barry is a Senior International Trade Specialist in the International Trade Administration’s Global Knowledge Center.
What happens if you have a fuel container and it gets punctured? You’re probably going to lose your fuel. Depending on what punctures your container, you could also have an explosion.
Unless your fuel container is made of “smart” materials, like the materials developed by Oregon-based High Impact Technology, or HIT.
Results look like magic as the company’s smart materials seal up bullet holes before contents can spill and catch fire. HIT also makes treatments to protect power plants from everything from storms to terrorist attacks.
More than half of HIT’s employees work on the international side of the business, so exports have been crucial for the company. HIT has also worked with the International Trade Administration’s (ITA) Commercial Service office in Portland, Ore., to expand in global markets.
HIT Director of Operations Russ Monk discussed how business is going with Doug Barry of ITA’s Global Knowledge Center.
Barry: You became an exporter via the U.S. military, which is not an uncommon channel for smaller companies that work with the U.S. Commercial Service.
Monk: That’s right. We monitor U.S. government procurements and we spotted one for the Department of Defense a number of years back. At the time, enemy attacks on fuel convoys coming into Iraq was problem number one on the planet for the Department of Defense. We were invited to demonstrate our solution and selected two weeks later.
Barry: What is the chemistry behind your solution?
Monk: Resins are mixed under very high pressure to form a urethane coating. It also has a reactive chemistry in the matrix. Simply put, an internal cork is formed to prevent the flammable liquids from leaking out and igniting. We hold half a dozen patents on the process. Our main mission is to protect soldiers. We won’t make things that harm people.
Barry: What other customers do you have?
Monk: We sell to Germany, Canada, and Russia. We will ship soon to Singapore and the United Arab Emirates. We’ve had a request for quotes from Turkey and the United Kingdom.
Barry: How important are international sales to your business?
Monk: Hugely important. Thirty-percent of our sales are international. More than half of our 40 employees, including supply chain jobs, work on the international side of the business. When our infrastructure barricades get rolled out, we expect to expand in all markets.
Barry: What kinds of assistance have you received from the government?
Monk: You really help small U.S. companies like ours. Trouble is you’re a best kept secret. Maybe I shouldn’t share you, but I do. We rely on you to introduce us to new markets. When the U.S. Commercial Service folks at the Embassies join us in meetings with government officials in, say, the United Arab Emirates, it really makes a difference. We get instant credibility from the host government. We attend seminars at the local Export Assistance Centers—on export controls and regulations. They’ve been invaluable. And we’ve taken advantage of the STEP grant—federal funds administered by the State of Oregon that helped us attend an international trade show.
Barry: Thank you for helping us become less of a secret. What’s been the biggest lesson for you in going global?
Monk: Have patience. It takes time to learn the business culture. It’s easy to get spoiled if you deal just with other Americans. When you operate globally, you need to have a long horizon. We could speed things up by paying bribes in countries where it’s a common practice, but we won’t do it and never will. Good technology trumps graft. That is the (American) advantage. The Commerce Department represents some of the best taxpayer dollars spent and has greatly enhanced our offering to the world.