Vermont companies benefit from export subsidies

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Advanced Conversion, based in Barre, manufactures specialist components for trucks, buses and planes as well as parts for power grids and laser surgery. Advanced Conversion Courtesy.

Over the past two years, Ed Sawyer has used two federal grants of $20,000 each to try to increase exports for advanced conversion. Barre’s company manufactures specialized components for trucks, buses and planes 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 release and market our products,” said Sawyer, CEO of the company.

Advanced Conversion uses the grants to travel to trade shows in Europe and to travel overseas to meet key clients.

Last month, Vermont secured increased funding for these federal grants, which are part of the State Trading Expansion Programmeaning more local businesses will benefit.

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

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

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

“A lot of people go to international trade shows or work on their websites to suit certain markets, either through translation or search engine optimization,” said Tim Tierney, director of corporate recruiting. and international trade at the state trade agency. Tierney said that during the pandemic, companies 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 bring someone into a new market and they reach that market. It’s a good thing not only for this company, but it creates jobs here in Vermont.

Tierney said the money was also used to hire consultants to help exporters navigate customs, comply with trade regulations and market research.

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

“Export is our lifeblood,” he said.

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

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

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

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

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