Second in a series
Small businesses exporting may seem like an oxymoron to a lot of small business owners, especially since the top 1 percent of exporting firms (or 0.03 percent of all firms) account for 80 percent of exports, according to a recent study based on U.S. census data.
But small business owners shouldn’t believe for a minute that exporting is better left to big corporations. In fact, President Obama is counting on small companies to lead his effort to double U.S. exports in the next five years.
While the President’s goal has drawn a lot of skepticism, he doesn’t have to make a believer out of Drew Greenblatt, president of Marlin Steel Wire Products, LLC, in Baltimore. His firm is a case study of how small businesses can break into export markets and boost sales.
As the debate heats up over what the government needs to do to promote small business exports, Marlin Steel Wire’s experience is a valuable example to those businesses wanting to follow in Greenblatt’s footsteps and join the global economy.
His company has been exporting for six years, and now ships its products — custom wire baskets, wire forms and precision sheet metal fabrication assemblies — to more than 20 countries. Yet Marlin Steel has only 28 employees. “One fourth of our employees, are employed as a direct result of the company’s export business,” he says.
Greenblatt testified recently before the House Small Business Committee, on behalf of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. That committee is currently examining how small business trade policy can be used to encourage job growth. Every $1 billion boost in exports translates roughly into 6,100 domestic jobs, according to government estimates. Studies also show that firms that export tend to grow faster, hire more often, and pay better wages than those that do not.
“We want more of that growth. As the president of the firm, I truly understand the importance of international trade and the impact it can have on small business. It’s simple: we want to ship to more countries, grow our client base, and create more jobs. The more we diversify our client base the more stable we will be,” Greenblatt says.
Today, more than 50 million American workers – or approximately 40 percent of the private sector — are employed by more than 250,000 small and medium-sized companies that export, according to U.S. Treasury Department figures.
That amounts to one in four factory jobs, meanwhile one in three acres of farmland is devoted to overseas sales.
Marlin Steel Wire’s strength is the ability to provide a highly customized product to clients with little production time. Its customers include pharmaceutical, medical, industrial, aerospace, and automotive companies and are located in such countries as Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Singapore, Brazil, Hungary, Poland, Israel, Canada, Mexico, and Taiwan.
But Greenblatt isn’t drawing the line there. The company’s next target is to aggressively go after the Spanish speaking market in South America. One of the first things it did was to translate its Web site into Spanish to make the company “friendlier to foreign wire basket and wire form manufacturing engineers,” he says.