When it comes to exporting outside the United States, Jeco Plastic Products has taken the challenge into outer space, literally. The Indiana-based company specializes in products with far-reaching applications that have been sold on every continent — and have even gone into space aboard the International Space Station.
Established in 1973, Jeco has grown into a global leader in the development and production of custom and durable plastic pallets. The company has two major product lines, utilizing both rotational molding and thermoforming to manufacture products for industries ranging from printing to automotive to aerospace.
In 1998, Army combat veteran and West Point graduate Craig Carson purchased the company. With a background running companies of all sizes, he quickly realized that shrinking domestic markets meant exporting was crucial to ensuring growth for the small business that’s headquartered just outside Indianapolis in Plainfield, Indiana.
In this video, CEO Craig Carson discusses how EXIM support enabled Jeco Plastic Products to increase global sales and increase revenues. You also can view the video here.
Protection When a Customer Doesn't Pay
Although exporting was initially a small part of Jeco’s business, Carson soon recognized the potential customer base worldwide. But he also knew he needed a way to vet his global customers and protect his company’s investment. That’s when he learned about the financial tools that EXIM can provide small businsses to help offset the risk of doing business internationally.
“The specific thing that I initially was concerned about was properly addressing the creditworthiness of our end-use customers. It’s very difficult for me, as an American, to assess that sort of situation elsewhere in the world. So I had to do something to mitigate the risk of nonpayment. EXIM provides that sort of security,” Carson said.
Beginning in 1998, Carson turned to EXIM’s export credit insurance to protect his company’s foreign receivables from nonpayment by international buyers. That also allowed him to offer open account credit terms to customers, which paved the way for double-digit sales growth. In 2022, Jeco was honored as an EXIM Exporter of the Year.
“You must protect yourself against what you don't know that you don't know. And that’s what EXIM does,” he said. “It’s really critical when you’re small — one mistake and you’re gone.”
EXIM’s support has helped Jeco work with both big and small customers. When a large Canadian company unexpectedly filed bankruptcy, EXIM’s export credit insurance saved Jeco from financial disaster, Carson said.
“EXIM was critical for approaching these big guys, not just the small guys who are very difficult to have a proper credit assessment on, but even the big ones,” he said. “I can't afford to have them simply decide not to pay me on time, for whatever reason it may be.”
Exports now comprise about 65 percent of Jeco’s sales volume, and the company ships to markets in Western and Eastern Europe, North and South America, Japan, and the Middle East. Many of its customers use those components in products that ultimately return to the U.S. market. The company’s insurance is facilitated by EXIM broker Trade Acceptance Group.
What EXIM provides for small businesses is the confidence needed to plan and invest in their operations, Carson said: “What it does protect you from are things that are beyond your control. And that list is quite long when you're small, whether that be credit worthiness of the end-user, whether it be some supply chain disruption, whether it be something that suddenly constrains capital availability for working capital, which in turn also constrains your ability to grow. And that's where EXIM fits into that.”
Support for Veteran-Owned Businesses
Jeco is among the more than 300,000 U.S. businesses owned by veterans. For veterans like Carson who operate a small business, exporting American-made products provides a proven path to success that capitalizes on their global experience and military skill to reach the vast consumer base in the global marketplace.
EXIM can assist those veteran-owned businesses, with the trade finance tools they need to begin or expand exporting their products worldwide. EXIM’s Minority and Women-Owned Business Division (MWOB) works closely with organizations that have a minority trade focus to create opportunities for U.S. companies that are owned by veterans, minorities, women, people with disabilities, and the LGBTQ+ community along with rural and startup businesses.
In business terms, Carson compares the protection EXIM provides for his business to the protection that fellow soldiers provide for each other: “You better make sure somebody’s looking out for you.”
"You must protect yourself against what you don't know that you don't know. And that’s what EXIM does," said Jeco Plastic Products CEO Craig Carson.
Carson encourages other small businesses to expand beyond their domestic markets and take advantage of opportunities in the global economy. “It's very important to pursue export markets," he said. "You’d be missing a big part of the world in a personal sense as well as a business sense if you passed on that tremendous opportunity.”
You can see more stories here about how other U.S. small businesses, like Jeco Plastic Products, have found success by taking their business global. To find out how EXIM can help your business compete worldwide, schedule a free consultation with a trade finance specialist and launch your export journey today.