July 1, 2010

Local companies reach worldwide

After two years of research and development, high-tech company Crashboxx is about to move out of the lab and into the marketplace – a marketplace that includes Mexico, Europe and South America.

“Right now in terms of volume, Mexico presents our biggest opportunity and we’re working extremely hard in making that happen,´ said Peter Byrne, president of the company that makes automotive black boxes that record details of an accident. The startup has been a resident of the Rocky Mountain Innovation Initiative incubator in Fort Collins since February.

“It’s somewhat counterintuitive,” Byrne added. “Most businesses have an established American business before they export. We had an export opportunity in the development phase of the business, and we’re trying to mine opportunities wherever they happen to be. Export markets are particularly effective right now. We have interest in Europe and South Africa as well.”

That’s why Byrne was eager to attend Ex-Im Bank’s Exports Live! seminar in Denver last month to learn about government programs available to support small business owners pursuing export markets, particularly financing programs. Financing, he said, is the next critical step to making his sales leads actual sales.

Ex-Im Bank, the official export-credit agency of the United States, finances the sales of U.S. exports, primarily to emerging markets throughout the world, providing loan guarantees, export-credit insurance and direct loans. Its June 4 “Increasing Colorado’s Participation in the Global Economy” seminar was led by bank Chairman Fred Hochberg, and Sen. Michael Bennet delivered the opening remarks.

“At a time when our own economy has stumbled, our businesses need to be aware of every opportunity that can give them an edge – and helping them reach new markets and renewing our emphasis on trade are important ways to provide that kind of critical support,” Bennet said. “President Obama acknowledged as much in his State of the Union address and has outlined an ambitious plan to double U.S. exports over the next five years and create millions of new jobs.”

He noted that Ex-Im Bank already supported $961.2 million in exports by 61 Colorado companies in 26 communities, and said the federal government was committed to increasing that level of support.

Growing commitment to small business

Hochberg reiterated that commitment to double exports and helping Colorado businesses tap into the 1 billion consumers who are going to be joining the middle class in the emerging world over the next decade. Specifically, he focused on the bank’s growing commitment to small business.

In 2009, Ex-Im Bank approved more than $21 billion in transactions, with small businesses totaling a record $4.4 billion – a 42 percent increase from the year before. Last year also marked the bank’s biggest transaction, at $3 billion, as well as one of its smallest – $11,000 for books in Kenya.

Hochberg said the bank was willing to work with any business, large or small, that was sound and offered a good product and service, even if that business doesn’t actually export anything. Ex-Im Bank recently rolled out $2 billion in new supply-chain financing to support companies that supply exporters.

Hochberg followed up the conference by putting the government’s money where his mouth was, announcing a $34 million deal – backed by a direct loan from Ex-Im Bank – for Centennial-based Stolle Machinery to sell aluminum/steel can-making equipment to Saudia Arabia. The loan to Mahmood Saeed Collective Co. in Jeddah is the first-ever Ex-Im Bank loan approved to a private company in Saudi Arabia.

“This is the type of financing support Ex-Im Bank can provide to small and medium-sized businesses throughout Colorado to help them grow sales and jobs by exporting,” Hochberg said.

“Put simply, international trade translates into jobs for Coloradans,” added Bennet, also in attendance for the announcement. “This deal will help Stolle keep good-paying, high-quality jobs right here in Colorado. It also represents the type of opportunities Colorado businesses ought to know might be available to them so they can grow their operations, create jobs and help move our economy forward.”

The export seminar was also attended by representatives of online giant Google, which is partnering with Ex-Im Bank to provide businesses with advice and tools for marketing to new international markets.

“There are now more than 1.2 billion people online worldwide, and many of these users are ready and able to buy and research online,´ said Stuart Smalls, Google’s head of acquisitions for the United States. “There are a lot of potential worldwide customers available for small and mid-sized businesses. Google can offer practical insight to help potential exporters understand target markets and quickly and easily get started. The Internet is helping reduce barriers particularly in e-commerce.”

Byrne of Crashboxx couldn’t agree more. “When I look at our traffic, we get hits from countries all over the globe. It’s remarkable, quite frankly, the reach a website can allow you to achieve.”

Video conferencing, likewise, has allowed him to conduct sales and technical presentations with potential customers as far away as South Africa. “It means you don’t have to get on plane – that’s remarkable savings. For a business at any stage cost savings is important; in the early stage, it’s particularly essential.”

After two years of research and development, high-tech company Crashboxx is about to move out of the lab and into the marketplace – a marketplace that includes Mexico, Europe and South America.

“Right now in terms of volume, Mexico presents our biggest opportunity and we’re working extremely hard in making that happen,´ said Peter Byrne, president of the company that makes automotive black boxes that record details of an accident. The startup has been a resident of the Rocky Mountain Innovation Initiative incubator in Fort Collins since February.

“It’s somewhat counterintuitive,” Byrne added. “Most businesses have an established…

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