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Trading Stories: The Impact of Exports on Small Businesses Across the Nation

To celebrate 2015 National Small Business Week, these stories highlight how important trade is to small businesses across the United States, while also demonstrating the potential for even greater growth and opportunity that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership would enable.

Keats Southwest
El Paso, Texas

"We went from 6 employees and 6 production machines to 50 employees and 50 machines running on 3 shifts.”  —Matt Keats, President

The Keats companies are manufacturers of precision metal stampings, wire forms, and assemblies to the electronics, medical, consumer goods, and automotive industries. Originally founded as Keats Manufacturing in 1958 in Chicago, the company expanded to El Paso in 1994 to open their Keats Southwest facility. NAFTA enabled the company to be competitive in the Mexican market during the manufacturing boom.

Keats Southwest credits duty-free movement of goods and the simplified framework of export documentation under NAFTA with helping to grow the company’s annual revenue from $1 million to $10 million. The company is forecasting export sales of over $8 million in 2014.

Important Facts

  • Nine-fold revenue increase attributed to FTAs
  • Forecasting over $8 million in sales for 2014

Planetary Design
Missoula, Montana

“As you know, small business is the backbone of our country, and where most new job growth comes from – one job at a time. I also think that people are generally surprised at how international we are from Missoula. It just proves that creating a national and international brand can be achieved anywhere.”  —Scott Billadeau, Company Founder

Planetary Design, in Missoula, Montana, sells a
full line of stellar stainless steel French press coffee makers, French press mugs, tea infuser mugs, travel mugs and food storage kitchen canisters, among other products. As a multi-million dollar company, about 15% has been exports to such countries as Canada, Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, South Africa, Korea, Israel, Italy, Denmark, Norway, England, Iceland, New Zealand, and Australia. Over 10% of its workforce is supported by exports.

In the United States, Planetary Design is in such retailers as REI, Williams Sonoma, Crate & Barrel, Bed, Bath and Beyond, and The Container Store.

Important Facts

  • Ships to TPP partner countries
  • 15% of annual sales are exports
  • 10% of workforce supported by exports

Rhema Scientific
Hawthorne, New York

“The TPP agreement will greatly benefit our company as it would open access to several other markets where we would like to enter into with U.S. manufactured products.”  —Jibu George, President

Rhema Scientific, Inc. is a Hawthorne, New York- based small business providing U.S. manufactured healthcare products and services around the world with a vision to implement best practice solutions in the healthcare sector. The company delivers a complete portfolio of medical, laboratory, research, forensic, personal care, and veterinary products.

Rhema Scientific, Inc. has successfully entered a number of international markets, including U.S. FTA partners Korea, Bahrain, Oman, and Jordan. Export sales have consistently doubled year-over-year. In the year 2014, 90 percent of the company’s sales were from exports and 80 percent of its employees were involved in export operations, supporting jobs in New York.

Important Facts

  • 90% of sales from exports in 2014
  • 80% of employees involved in export operations
  • Faces tariffs as high as 20% in TPP countries

Wheeling Truck Center
Wheeling, West Virginia

“Trade agreements have benefited our company. Some of our most successful markets are countries which the U.S. has an FTA with. For example, the Korean FTA helped increase sales into the Korean market.” —Chad Remp, Manager

Founded in 1933, Wheeling Truck Center of Wheeling, West Virginia is a fourth-generation family- owned and operated business selling truck parts.
With 21 employees, the company has increased the number of employees due to the success of selling internationally and currently has 3 full-time employees dedicated to international sales.

The company exports truck parts to TPP partners Malaysia and Chile, FTA partner Korea, Bolivia, the UAE, Turkey, and other destinations around the world, with over $2 million in international sales last year. They have sold into 98 countries worldwide.

Important Facts

  • Ships to TPP partner countries
  • Increased exports led to expanded workforce

Jet Incorporated
Cleveland, Ohio

“It is extremely encouraging that the trade agreements currently being negotiated recognize the contribution of exports by SMEs and include specific objectives to minimize the trade barriers encountered by SMEs.” —Ron Swinko, CEO

Jet Incorporated of Cleveland, Ohio designs and manufactures onsite wastewater treatment systems and commercial package plant equipment for treating biological wastewater from homes, communities, and commercial facilities. The company exports control panels, pumps, compressors, pipes, motors, and plastic tanks that are used for treating domestic biological wastewater. The treated water can then be reused for irrigation, industrial processes, or replenishing ground water. Of Jet’s 32 employees, 5 jobs are directly related to exports, with sales to 33 countries including TPP partner Mexico, Thailand, the Philippines, the UAE, and parts of East Africa.

Export revenue increased sales and allowed Jet to add
staff during the economic downturn. International sales account for about 25 percent of the firm’s business, with
a year-over-year growth in the 20-plus percent range. Jet exports a variety of goods that could benefit from reduced tariffs under the TPP and the WTO Environmental Goods Agreement.

Important Facts

  • Ships to TPP partner countries
  • 25% of business is international
  • Around 20% year-over-year growth
  • Faces tariffs as high as 30% in TPP countries