By Doug Ireland
---- — SALEM, N.H. — Most people probably don’t even realize that local businesses are playing a key role in boosting American exports around the world.
But they are — and receiving grants to continue their work.
The state Division of Economic Development announced this week that three Salem companies and a Newton firm are among 35 businesses across New Hampshire to be awarded grants to help increase exports.
The firms are Good Leads, Corfin Industries and Innovative FOTO of Salem and Continental Biomass Industries of Newton. Salem leads New Hampshire communities in the number of companies to be awarded the grants.
Each of the four local firms received the maximum $5,000 available and must match that amount, according to Tina Kasim of the state’s International Trade Resource Center.
“It is extremely valuable,” Kasim said of the grant money.
New Hampshire received nearly $300,000 through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s State Trade and Export Promotion program, or STEP, she said.
“It allows companies to leverage more resources to get a leg up on their exporting plans, Kasim said.
The grants are aimed at helping companies explore export markets for the first time or improve their current exporting. The STEP program encourages small and mid-sized firms to study overseas markets, receive certification to comply with trade regulations, and participate in foreign sales missions.
Five thousand dollars may not seem like much to a multimillion-dollar corporation, but it can still go a long way.
“We’re pleased,” said Bob Good, founder and CEO of Good Leads. “It’s a small amount, but it defrays some of the costs because it’s expensive going to Europe and some of the (business) shows.”
Good’s 10-year-old business development firm has approximately 50 employees. He is the president of the 300-member New England-Canada Business Council and has led numerous trade missions. His company’s grant will help fund a visit to Instanbul in June, he said.
“I’ll be there looking to find European and Asian companies that want to sell here in the U.S.,” he said.
New Hampshire companies are increasingly relying on export markets to do business, Kasim said. There are 2,000 Granite State firms that export their products to foreign nations, she said.
“Trade is very important to the state, especially manufacturers of small electronics,” Good said.
For Don Tyler of Corfin Industries, the grant will be used to help increase his company’s exports to Japan, he said.
Corfin prepares components for the defense, medical and telecommunications industries. The company does business on five continents, including Africa and Australia, he said.
Tyler was pleased to hear three Salem firms received grants.
“That’s fantastic,” he said.
The third Salem company, Innovative FOTO, manufactures and sells photo booths around the world, according to president and CEO Dale Valvo.
Last year, Valvo led U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H, on a tour of his company, which he said exports to at least 29 countries and does nearly $2 million in overseas business a year.
Shaheen, who helped launch the STEP program, said in a statement this week that exporting provides a “tremendous opportunity for small businesses.
“Over 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside the United States, but only 1 percent of small businesses currently sell their products overseas,” she said. “Through the STEP grant, ITRC will be able to help New Hampshire businesses access new, fast-growing markets across the globe.”
No one from Continental Biomass Industries could be reached yesterday for comment.