Vermont businesses get a boost on export subsidies

Rod-based advanced converting manufactures specialized components for trucks, buses and aircraft, as well as parts for power grids and laser surgery. Advanced conversion courtesy.

For the past two years, Ed Sawyer has used two federal grants of $20,000 each to try to increase Advanced Conversion’s exports. The Barre-based company makes specialized components for trucks, buses and aircraft, as well as parts for power grids and laser surgery.

“It’s not a huge amount of money, but it helps us make decisions to go out and market our products,” said Sawyer, the company’s chief executive.

Advanced Conversion uses the grants to attend trade shows in Europe and travel abroad to meet key customers.

Last month, Vermont got an increase in funding from these federal grants, which are part of the state’s Business Expansion Program, meaning more local businesses will benefit.

“It’s been underutilized to some degree, but the state is increasing the reach, so I think we’ll see a lot more businesses using it,” said Darcy Carter, Vermont director for the Small Business Administration, a federal agency. .

States apply for the funding, and this year the Small Business Administration awarded Vermont $249,000, nearly a 66% increase. Previously, the state had a $300,000 grant over two years.

Businesses then apply for grants of up to $20,000 from the state Community Business and Development Agency, which administers the funds.

“A lot of people go to international trade shows or work on their websites to fit certain markets, whether it’s through translation or search engine optimization,” said Tim Tierney, the agency’s director of trade recruitment and international trade. state of commerce. Tierney said that during the pandemic, companies have used funds to improve their online platforms to serve international customers.

“The return on investment for some of these companies is huge,” Tierney said. “You take someone to a new market and they come to that market. It’s a great thing not only for that company, but it creates jobs here in Vermont.”

Tierney said the money also goes toward hiring consultants to help exporters with customs navigation, compliance with trade regulations and market research.

At Advanced Conversion, exports account for more than half of the business, according to Sawyer.

“Exporting is our soul,” he said.

The company, which employs 34 people in Vermont, exports to China, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Mexico and the United Kingdom, Sawyer said. She noted that the grants also help pay for export insurance for banks to finance customer payments abroad.

Most of the manufacturing is done in Barre, Sawyer said, but the company also has a manufacturing partner in China.

This week, using a State Trade Expansion Program grant, the trade agency hosted 40 Canadian businesses in Burlington to connect them with Vermont businesses and organizations.

Vermont has $5 billion in annual trade with Canada, according to the agency, and 73 Canadian-owned businesses employed 3,000 Vermonters in 2021. Vermont exported $830 million worth of goods and services to Canada last year.

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