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EXIM Honors 10 Small Businesses for Exporting Success at 2023 Annual Conference
October 24, 2023 Jane Lemons, Business Development Specialist

The Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM) honored eight U.S. businesses from a range of industry sectors and geographic regions as Exporters of the Year during its 2023 Annual Conference. In addition, two other small businesses were honored for their export projects under EXIM’s Make More in America Initiative (MMIA) and the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII).

These accomplished companies represent a cross section of American innovation and ingenuity, and they illustrate how EXIM’s trade finance tools, including Export Credit Insurance and Working Capital Loan Guarantees, can help U.S. companies expand their international sales as they compete in the global marketplace. Nearly 90 percent of EXIM's transactions directly support small businesses.

 “The eight exporters recognized this year serve as prime examples of the strength of U.S. business and American exporting,” said EXIM President and Chair Reta Jo Lewis. “EXIM is dedicated to facilitating the exporting success of U.S. small businesses as we work to reshore American jobs and reinforce the domestic supply chain. This year’s recipients show how EXIM financing can make a difference and help us fulfill our mission of supporting American jobs by facilitating U.S. exports.”

Celebrating Success: 2023 Exporters of the Year

Air Tractor Inc.: Headquartered in Olney, Texas, Air Tractor has been manufacturing single-engine agricultural and firefighting aircraft since 1972. Using EXIM's medium-term financing since 1995 has allowed the company to increase its overall exports to 55-65 percent of sales annually. Air Tractor exports to more than 35 countries on six continents. The company, which is employee-owned, currently provides jobs for about 375 people in rural Texas.

“Exports have increased 50 percent and sales have increased by 25 percent since we began using EXIM support on our lending program. That translates to support of 25 percent of our workforce, who are also our employee-owners. Our relationship with EXIM Bank has grown to be a very important part of our business.” —Phil Jeske, Finance Manager

Auburn Manufacturing Inc.: Auburn Manufacturing, a woman-owned company founded in 1979, is an industry leader that produces high performance textiles for extreme temperature protection. Based in Mechanic Falls, Maine, the company has been relying on EXIM’s Export Credit Insurance since 2009. Exports account for about 25 percent of sales, and the company ships its products to more than 30 countries worldwide.

“EXIM Bank has helped us build our export business by allowing good customers to buy on payment terms, just like our domestic customers. Such customer service has helped us to develop long-lasting relationships with companies in all parts of the world. —Kathie Leonard, President & CEO

BNutty LLC: Carol Podolak and Joy Thompkins grew BNutty from a soccer fundraiser to a commercial manufacturer that exports gourmet peanut butter around the world from their headquarters in Portage, Indiana. The woman-owned company has relied on EXIM’s Export Credit Insurance since 2022, and exports now account for 20 percent of sales. Exporting has increased the company’s overall revenue and given it the opportunity to expand its manufacturing capabilities.

“Having the backing of EXIM Bank allows us to feel comfortable accepting export opportunities with the knowledge that we are guaranteed payment. We see the growing demand for American made products in the international market, and we are excited to be able to share our unique gourmet peanut butter with customers around the world." —Carol Podolak and Joy Thompkins, Founders

Competitive Engineering Inc.: Based in Tucson, Arizona, Competitive Engineering specializes in high-precision manufacturing in support of the aerospace and data storage industries. When the company needed to improve cash flow to support its growing export business in 2005, it turned to EXIM's Working Capital Guarantee Program to find a lender that would include foreign accounts receivable as collateral in its borrowing base. Exports account for approximately 30 percent of sales and have enabled the company to add jobs.

“EXIM has provided us with improved cash flow to allow us to take advantage of sales opportunities when they are presented without having to be concerned with having the initial funds for the project.” —Stacey Lee, CFO

Flow Sciences Inc.: With headquarters in Leland, North Carolina, Flow Sciences designs and manufactures containment solutions for the pharmaceutical industry. The veteran-owned company, founded in 1987, has relied on EXIM Export Credit Insurance since 2006. Exports to more than dozen countries worldwide account for more than 20 percent of sales, allowing the company to increase its revenue and diversify its client base.

“EXIM is as important as any utility that our company uses. It is always working to support our business even though many may not realize its power is 'on' all the time.” —Stephen Janz, Vice President of International Sales

Global Export Marketing Co., LTD (GEMCO): GEMCO is a leading export management company headquartered in New York, New York, with a specialty in food products. Established in 1988, the minority-owned company markets, distributes, and exports its own American Garden brand along with well-known partner brands such as Ken’s Steak House Dressings, Sweet Baby Ray’s, Sue Bee Honey, and French’s to over 60 countries worldwide. With 100 percent of its sales international, partnering with EXIM for both Export Credit Insurance and Working Capital Loan Guarantee has allowed the company to grow between 350-400 percent over the last 20 years.

“Our relationship with EXIM gave us access to markets that were otherwise too challenging to work in. Today with the support of EXIM, we are present in over 60 countries and hope to expand our reach further.” —Zahira Fazal, Corporate Secretary

KOVAL Distillery: Founded in 2008 by husband-and-wife team, Dr. Robert Birnecker and Dr. Sonat Birnecker Hart, KOVAL Distillery began as the first distillery to open in Chicago, Illinois, since the mid-1800s. In 2017, the company began using EXIM’s Export Credit Insurance, and exports have since grown to about 30 percent of the company’s sales. Of its 24 employees, five staff members are dedicated to export operations. KOVAL's spirits can now be purchased in 55 countries and counting.

“It was a real ‘aha moment’ when we realized that we could insure our exports through EXIM, and it made us feel so much more empowered and comfortable engaging in even more export, because of that.” —Sonat Birnecker-Hart, President

Montachem International Inc.: Founded in 1988, Montachem distributes a complete line of thermoplastic resins and related additives to meet the needs of plastics’ converters around the globe. Based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, exports account for 95 percent of the company’s sales. In 2009, Montachem turned to EXIM’s Export Credit Insurance, which has provided coverage for more than 100 international customers in Africa, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Europe.

“Without exports we would not exist. EXIM has provided great support for the growth of our export business globally.” —Andres Lazardi, Treasury Manager

MMIA Deal of the Year: Supporting Export-Oriented Domestic Manufacturing

Aquatech International, a minority-owned small business headquartered in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, that manufactures water purification and treatment systems, was honored with the Make More in America Deal of the Year.

The MMIA initiative is a tool designed to unlock financing for American manufacturing, strengthen America’s global competitiveness, close critical supply chain gaps, and support American jobs. It works by making EXIM’s existing medium- and long-term loans, loan guarantees, and insurance available for export-oriented domestic manufacturing projects. A longtime EXIM customer that exports to more than 60 countries, Aquatech will utilize the MMIA loan to purchase services and equipment to modernize and expand existing laboratories in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

“Aquatech is committed to providing innovative technologies to accelerate the energy transition and support climate adaptation,” said Venkee Sharma, Executive Chairman. “This financing enables Aquatech to better support Critical Minerals (Lithium) and Electric Vehicle supply chains in the U.S. and globally, demonstrating the power of public-private coordination to strengthen American manufacturing competitiveness.”

PGI Deal of the Year: Supporting Sub-Saharan Africa

Acrow Corporation of America, a small business headquartered in Parsippany, New Jersey, that has been designing, manufacturing, and supplying prefabricated modular steel bridges for more than 60 years, was honored with the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment Deal of the Year.

EXIM’s Board of Directors approved a loan guarantee for more than $363 million to support the export of Acrow’s goods and services to Angola, where the company will install bridges throughout the sub-Saharan Africa country. The transaction is expected to support 600 American jobs across 18 states.

“Acrow Bridge has greatly valued its partnership with EXIM in supporting Acrow’s successfully financed Bridge Development Programs in Africa, including its current project in Angola,” said Paul Sullivan, President of International Business. “EXIM supports American exporters like Acrow with its holistic approach to ensuring overall project success, with a focus on positive stakeholder outcomes through to full implementation, above and beyond the transactional elements. EXIM keenly understands the value proposition of American exporters – high-quality, innovative products and comprehensive service – and endeavors to ensure that the financing is there to support that value proposition in competitive international market settings.”

EXIM Annual Conference Banner_2023 (1)

EXIM's Annual Conference was held October 19-20, 2023, in Washington, D.C. With the theme, “Creating Locally Exporting Globally," the event highlighted the importance of U.S. manufacturing, economic security through exports, and women leaders in international trade. Attendees heard from leaders in business, finance, government, and policy as well as learned about the resources EXIM offers to support global export development.

You can see additional highlights from the event under #EXIM23 on EXIM’s social media channels @EximBankUS and @EXIMChair on Twitter as well as Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

To learn how EXIM can assist your business in starting or expanding your export journey, schedule a free consultation with a trade finance specialist today.

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EXIM’s Blog postings are intended to highlight various facets of exporting, but the postings are not legal advice, and are not intended to summarize all legal requirements associated with exporting.