Posts Tagged ‘Ohio’

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A Gold Key Unlocks Global Growth for Cleveland Company

June 22, 2012

Doug Barry is a Senior International Trade Specialist in the Trade Information Center, U.S. Commercial Service within the International Trade Administration.

A record number of companies were recognized for their accomplishments in exporting at a White House ceremony this past May. Cleveland-based Jet Incorporated was represented by its chief executive officer Ron Swinko, who received the Presidential “E” Award. Swinko spoke with Doug Barry of the Trade Information Center, U.S. Commercial Service.

Barry: Can you tell us how the company started and what it does?

Swinko: The company was founded in 1955. The basic equipment the company designed at that time was to replace septic tanks with advanced technology, to treat the water using a smaller system and to allow the water to be discharged. Over the years, we expanded into commercial systems which are typically called small package plants for decentralized locations like small villages, hotels, resorts. That is the basis for our international growth as well.

Jet’s International Sales Manager, Gary Waite, trains the distributor and local operators on a new wastewater treatment plant in Kenya. (Photo Jet, Inc.)

Barry: For the non-scientists, can you give us a quick overview of how things work?

Swinko: It’s biological wastewater treatment. So anything that comes from either the sinks or the sanitary systems in a home or in a building that water enters into the system, into a tank where the solids are digested by aerobic bacteria. And part of our system is designed to inject air that promotes the growth of that aerobic bacteria.

Barry: Tell us about the international part of your business. How did that start and what was the biggest challenge in getting going?

Swinko: It started with inquiries because of the technology that was developed. The founder, David MacLaren, was certainly an innovator. And he was also very interested in expanding the technology internationally. He obtained a series of patents in several countries over the years. The most significant challenge was servicing our international distributors. And by servicing that means having enough inventory to meet their demands for immediate shipment, understanding what the export requirements are and ultimately providing solid responsive technical support for systems that have been installed globally.

Barry: You do a lot of work in developing countries. Has that been a challenge?

Swinko: Educating customers is a big challenge. Developing countries may be focused on environmental sustainability, even to a greater extent than we are here in the U.S., because of the scarcity of water. But they may not necessarily understand the benefit of regulation or the type of equipment that’s available. Over the last couple of years, one of our initiatives has been to educate regulators in, for example, the Cayman Islands and in Kenya. We hosted a seminar on wastewater management for the architects association of Kenya into at least provide some education about  how wastewater treatment systems can generate water for reuse and how that can be incorporated into sustainable projects for apartment buildings and resorts.

Barry: Who did you turn to in order to find a solution to that challenge?

Swinko: We’ve used the U.S. Commercial Service quite extensively. They have a wonderful service called the Gold Key, and because our business relies on increasing the number of distributors, we look for partners in developing countries who will act as distributors and who are technically capable either because they’re currently in the water purification business or because they’re in the construction business. We’ve used this service to expand into Southeast Asia and into South America. I just recently returned from a trade mission to Brazil that included four Gold Key meetings with potential distributors in Sao Paolo.

Barry: When you say Gold Key, do you provide the gold and they provide the key?

Swinko: It’s more mutual than that. But truthfully, the U.S. Commercial Service spends a great deal of time learning about our business, learning about and understanding our company and the requirements for distributors in the location, and then they evaluate potential distributor partners and partner companies in that area. They establish the Gold Key meetings after they’ve reviewed the capabilities and what our requirements are. Finally they look for a match, a good match I would say maybe in terms of company personality as well as technical expertise.

Barry: Let’s talk about the matches in Brazil. It would have been hard for you to fly in unannounced to Rio and Sao Paolo and open a phonebook. So they had a solution for that. But how did it work out on the ground?  Are you confident that good things will come of those meetings?

Swinko: Very confident. Part of the service includes an interpreter. So if there are any language barriers, particularly with technical terms or equipment, the interpreters are very capable. But for the most part they also look for companies that have good language skills in terms of an understanding of English. We’re quite confident that this was an excellent trip for us. And we’ve had more detailed discussions with two of the companies and we’ve already had three quotes for systems requested.

Barry: This was a U.S. Commerce Department trade mission?

Swinko: Yes. The trade mission itself was a combined effort by the Commerce Department with the Brazil- U.S. Business Council and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It was particularly impressive in terms of the level of government officials that we met with and the management level of the potential customers or clients that we met. We received very detailed technical presentations on their environmental sustainability programs – and certainly from our perspective the mission was well worth the participation and the trip.

Barry: Give us a snapshot of the company and its international growth.

Swinko: We have about 30 employees. All of our manufacturing is done in our Cleveland, Ohio, location. The business in the U.S. is highly dependent on residential construction. So during the last several years, of course, the housing industry has struggled which would be putting it mildly. In fact, it’s been significantly challenged, and while we have done reasonably well domestically, internationally the expansion has allowed us to actually increase the number of employees and add an additional engineer so that we could continue to support the international business.

Barry: What percentage of total revenues is international?

Swinko: International is about 25 percent with some nice year-over-year growth in the 30-plus percent range.

Barry: Where do you see it going in the future?

Swinko: I would say certainly maintaining those particular increases especially because of the markets where we have a significant presence, like Africa, and as well as South American and Latin American countries.

Barry: Are China and India on the horizon?

Swinko: China, no – partly because of intellectual property concerns but also because we have such strong presence in these other developing countries where we haven’t fully leveraged the market.

Barry: Explain the decision to do the manufacturing in the United States?

Swinko: The foundation of the company was in Cleveland. So there is a strong commitment to manufacturing and assembling as much as we can in the U.S. Quite honestly, there are some very distinct challenges with that because certain manufacturing processes and products are not available in the U.S. or if they are, they’re available at a high price compared to what you can purchase overseas. We do also try to work in Mexico to keep the supply chain as short as we can.

Barry: Is there a value in “Made in America” with your international customers?

Swinko: Without a doubt, especially in the environmental technologies equipment market. They greatly respect the regulation that we’ve had over the years that’s improved our air and water. And made in America or imported from America in many of these countries has a very strong, positive connotation to the equipment.

Barry: Can it make up for the premium pricing that is required?

Swinko: In many cases it can. In particular they do also evaluate whether and how many of your components may have been made outside of the U.S.

Barry: Would you say that you are a better company as the result of your international experience?

Swinko: I would say we’re certainly a better company, and we’re a better company because each of those countries, while they can use the basic equipment, do require some modification, and do require particular levels of service. So it’s really driven some of our innovation of the equipment systems.

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4 Steps to the President’s “E” Award Podium or How to Become a Top U.S. Exporter

May 30, 2012

Linda Caruso is a Commercial Officer with the Commercial Service.  She currently serves domestically in the Commercial Service Cleveland office in Ohio. 

May is World Trade Month and traditionally the time that the Commerce Department chooses to recognize U.S. companies with The President’s “E” and “E Star” Awards.  This year marks the 50th anniversary of the program which was created in 1961 by President Kennedy to recognize those people and organizations who contribute significantly to United States exports. Could this year be the turning point for you to develop an export strategy?

The 2012 Ohio "E" and "E Star" Award winners (left to right) Frank Reynolds of International Projects; Jim Huttner of Bionix; Ron Swinko of Jet, Inc.; Mike Ivany of Flow Polymer; Milton Knight of New Waste Concepts

The 2012 Ohio “E” and “E Star” Award winners (left to right) Frank Reynolds of International Projects; Jim Huttner of Bionix; Ron Swinko of Jet, Inc.; Mike Ivany of Flow Polymer; Milton Knight of New Waste Concepts

Maybe you are thinking, “What can I do to be invited to the White House for next year’s awards ceremony?”  Well to begin you can watch for an announcement from the Commercial Service office in your state about the release of the application. Check out the guidelines below to see how these top exporters were able to make great strides in capturing customers from around the globe. Follow in their footsteps and you may just be the next top exporter from your State.

1. Measure Your Export Growth
First and foremost, the White House looks for measurable statistics to show growth in exports. This means that applicants must provide actual data (i.e. not projected) demonstrating a sustained increase in total U.S. export sales in order to qualify for this prestigious award.  All of the companies who won this year’s “E” Awards were able to show that their exports grew overall for the period under review.  Despite the great global recession, or perhaps because of it, two Ohio companies were even able to achieve triple-digit growth. 

Jet, Inc. from Cleveland, Ohio manufactures residential and commercial wastewater treatment plants and related products. Now active in 25 countries, Commerce Secretary Bryson recognized Jet, Inc. this year for their focus and commitment to expand internationally – specifically to counteract declining domestic sales. As a result, this company has reaped the rewards of their engagement by reporting an outstanding increase of 111% in exports in the face of a flat domestic market.

Another Cleveland company and 2012 President’s “E” Award winner, Flow Polymers, saw exports nearly double as the company expanded into 28 countries from 2008 to 2011. This manufacturer of additives for use in the tire industry reported that international sales now contribute fully 50% to the company’s bottom line.  They must be doing something right for their exports to have nearly doubled since 2008. 

2. Showcase Innovation
In addition to expanding exports, it helps if your company can demonstrate innovation. Whether the innovative characteristic is the product itself or the particular path your company has carved to go to market, if you can present a compelling case about how your company overcame some of the many challenges unique to international business – you’re halfway there.

Luckily, innovation is a characteristic that U.S. exporters have in spades. But did you know that it can also serve as a secret weapon to catapult your company to new heights in export sales?  Read on to find out how some Ohio exporters rose to the top of their game through innovation.

Secretary Bryson recognized New Waste Concepts, Inc. of Perrysburg, Ohio for their innovative approach to new global markets.  Early on, company managers found themselves in a difficult spot when their U.S. customers who took them overseas in the first place, withdrew from the market entirely.  But instead of following suit, this manufacturer of patented spray applications for landfills was willing to completely change their business model and invest as partners in their overseas business development. 

The company also chose to build a significant web presence focusing on key product markets. They even have a full Chinese version of website allowing customers to check on their orders.

A second innovative strategy the company used was to position its employees as industry experts by speaking at trade shows and publishing white papers.  Jet, Inc. also used education and training to differentiate themselves in the marketplace and to gain leverage and influence in their sector. These two companies have shown that they were able to raise the profile of their company overseas and win the business ahead of the competition by changing their approach to market.

3. Sustain the Export Business
Once you’ve landed the contract or gained access into your overseas market of choice, the next question to ask is whether your success is sustainable.  If you can show how your company has learned and applied the lessons and gained repeat business – you’re almost there.

Bionix Development Corporation (BDC), a Toledo, Ohio company, was cited by the Commerce Department as an exemplary exporter for several reasons.  With clients in 47 countries and 6 continents, the company’s unique pricing and product placement strategy has netted them steady, consistent double-digit sales growth year after year.  This, and the fact that Bionix spends considerable face time with their international customers, allows the company to stay one step ahead of the competition on a global scale. 

4. Broaden Impact on Trade
Finally, if your exporting activities have had a broad impact on global trade or influenced other U.S. companies, you may have all of the ingredients necessary to be a President’s “E” Award Winner.  If you’ve forged new markets or created a replicable model that others can use, we’d like to hear about it!

This year, the Commerce Department recognized International Projects, Inc. with an “E” Star Award for their long-standing work in developing Incoterms® with the International Chamber of Commerce, and for sharing the fruits of their labor with thousands of U.S. exporters. The “E Star” was authorized in 1969 to recognize “E” Award winners for continued efforts in export expansion. As the lone American on the board, Frank Reynolds, President of International Projects, Inc., spoke up for U.S. interests so that Incoterms® 2010 would better reflect our unique North American business practices. 

So whether you are just getting started in exports or have already managed to gain a foothold in international markets, we’d love to hear from you.  Remember, we’ll be cheering for you as you walk onto the podium to accept your future President’s “E” Award.

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Bringing the Russian Market to America

April 30, 2011

John McCaslin is Minister Counselor for Commercial Affairs for the U.S. Foreign and Commercial Service in Moscow, Russia.

Left Moscow at the end of April on a long planned six city trek across America to promote the Russian market to US business in a series of group programs and individual meetings.    I built the trip around my last stop, San Francisco, where we will have our annual European Senior Commercial Officer conference the week of May 8.  During the course of my travels I expect to make contact with over three hundred companies and generate significant new business for CS Russia.

First stop Cincinnati.  Whenever I travel around the US I am always impressed with the value of our domestic network and their state and local partners.  My April 28-29 programs in Cincinnati were no exception. 

Our local U.S. Export Assistance Center (USEAC) in Cincinnati and their partner, the European-American Chamber of Commerce, put together a first-class full-day program that included participation of the Russian Trade Representation from Washington, calls on  local exporters, a tour of the DHL international shipping facility and a group program hosted by a major local CS Russia client that included 50 local companies interested in doing business in Russia. The CS Russia client was a machine tool manufacturer that participated in our Aerospace Supply Chain Trade Mission to Russia last October, from which they have already generated several million dollars in sales. So they offered a great testimonial on CS services and how to do business in Russia.  We finished the day with a private VIP dinner hosted by GE at their manufacturing facility where we dined literally in the shadow of a huge GE 90 engine, the most powerful commercial aircraft engine in the world.

All I had to do was show up and give my presentation.

The next day was a series of individual meetings with five local companies hosted by our Cincinnati USEAC.  Part of my standard pitch on opportunities in Russia is that it is a challenging market with excellent prospects in selected sectors, but it is not for everyone.  True to form, of the five companies I met with and counseled, I advised two that they should look elsewhere.  Both were first-time exporters and I explained that the best use of their limited resources at this point in time would be more accessible markets closer to home.  Our Cincinnati USEAC will work closely to help make these clients export ready and identify the most promising markets in the region for them.  The other three, a retail design firm, airplane propeller manufacturer and a large medical device company, all with good international experience, will be working with our CS Russia team soon.

Next stop Baltimore.

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Energy Efficiency: A Key Component of U.S. Competitiveness

November 2, 2009

(This post contains external links.  Please review our external linking policy.)

Ryan Mulholland is an international trade specialist in the Manufacturing and Services unit of the International Trade Administration specializing in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Scott Dietz, VP of Investor Relations at Owens Corning World Headquarters in Toledo, Ohio led David Kincaid and me around an impressive facility built as a model of sustainable architecture on a tiny reed and grass covered spit of land jutting into the Maumee River.  Glass artworks from a NYC artist who incorporated the legendary glass fibers Owens Corning is so famous for graced doorways, halls, and the soaring entryway to the building.  The tour reminded me that U.S. industry is a place of world class innovation—and in Toledo, Ohio, a city once devastated by economic downturns, that spirit of American innovation is alive and well, as energy efficiency has become a cornerstone for the city’s new growth and prosperity.

International Trade Specialist Ryan Mulholland speaks at the Forum on Energy Efficiency in Manufacturing at Owens Corning in Toledo, Ohio

International Trade Specialist Ryan Mulholland speaks at the Forum on Energy Efficiency in Manufacturing at Owens Corning in Toledo, Ohio. (Photo U.S. Department of Commerce)

On September 21, 2009, the International Trade Administration (ITA) organized a Forum on Energy Efficiency in Manufacturing at Owens Corning to help manufacturers learn about state and federal resources available to promote efficiency.  Part of an ITA Energy Efficiency Initiative aimed at promoting the development and deployment of energy efficient technologies, this one-day event attracted 86 participants. Toledo was chosen because of its efforts to reinvigorate its manufacturing industry by taking a leadership role in developing the clean and efficient industries of tomorrow.

Presenters from ITA’s Office of Energy and Environmental Industries, the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership, the Department of Energy’s Industrial Technologies Program, and the Environmental Protection Administration’s Industrial Energy Star Program spoke about their programs.  Others from the State of Ohio Energy Office, Ford Motor Company, Eaton Technologies, Rockwell Automation, North Star BlueScope Steel, and Energy Industries of Ohio shared about their experiences with and the positive benefits derived from energy efficiency improvements. Each participant gave a brief presentation on the theme of energy efficiency. 

Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce Mary Saunders introduced the event and moderated both panel discussions.  Energy efficiency “represents a key component of the Obama administration’s national strategy to support job growth,” Saunders noted, adding that “with efficiency, you don’t have to depend on scientific breakthroughs or engineering miracles… (but rather)… is a way of maximizing the amount of energy you get from existing sources.”

Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur addressed the group noting that energy efficiency improvements are key to Toledo’s ongoing success, and added a word of congratulations to Owens Corning for winning EPA’s Energy Star Partner Award.

Following a keynote address from Owens Corning’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Frank O’Brien-Bernini, forum participants visited the Clean and Alternative Energy Incubator at the University of Toledo

Reactions by participants ranged from surprise at the number of available resources to gratitude, upon hearing there are individuals in government standing on behalf of American industry.  It was an effort well worth the hard work and cost.

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