Atlanta’s Rotorcorp LLC as a small company has seen steady growth in its export profile, with about 60 percent of revenues now coming from international sales.
But with a new appointment to a federal trade council, President Sean Casey is hoping to make sure his success is the rule, not the exception.
Mr. Casey has been tapped for a slot on the Industry Trade Advisory Committee for aerospace equipment, a joint group convened by the Commerce Department and the Office of the United States Trade Representative to gain firsthand insight from companies on issues of U.S. competitiveness.
As a steady user of services of the Export-Import Bank of the United States and the Small Business Administration, Mr. Casey has seen the way that advocacy and resources can be skewed toward large companies, sometimes at the expense of the smaller, fragmented players that nonetheless make up the bulk of U.S. employment.
His appointment on the 18-member committee through 2022 is a chance to bring a voice to complement those of giants on the panel, such as Boeing, Textron Inc., Pratt & Whitney and GE Aviation.
“It’s definitely like a ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington’ moment a little bit, for sure,” said Mr. Casey, whose company claims to be the largest distributor of Robinson Helicopter parts in the world, with more than 1,000 clients in 45 countries.
“It’s definitely like a ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington’ moment a little bit.”
Mr. Casey has no problem with large firms using trade resources that help them compete around the globe. But he wants to ensure smaller ones have similar chances.
“The question is, can I have access to the same tools and mechanisms that they do?” he said. “I think the answer is largely yes, but it requires vigilance on the part of small business owners, and we’ve got to keep a seat at the table.”
That applies in the U.S. and abroad, where Rotorcorp has faced some market-access challenges due to the complexities around regulation for aerospace products. The process of adding documentation in places like Europe is navigable, but it creates cost that can impact competitiveness. Other countries like Russia and Brazil have long been challenging due to existing import duties and requirements, but over time, Mr. Casey has learned how to break into new markets.
“My desire is to ensure that where obstacles to us being able so serve those global markets exist, they are removed to the degree possible,” he said.
That said, his business hasn’t been significantly impacted by new tensions brought on by the Trump administration’s campaign to rebalance trade in favor of U.S. interests.
That’s despite the fact that Rotorcorp’s growth markets are almost exclusively abroad, in places like the Philippines and Panama. Retaliatory tariffs haven’t hit the company’s “high-quality, sought after, U.S.-made products.”
As the population booms outside the U.S., he sees nowhere to grow but out, with a “gold rush” set to ensue internationally as more helicopters are used in a wide variety of sectors from fisheries to cattle ranching to pilot training and tourism.
“Helicopters do well where the road ends,” he said, with many owners using them like “flying pickup trucks” to get their jobs done every day.
Mr. Casey, a U.S. Army veteran who was deployed to Bosnia during the 1990s, sees the committee as a chance to give back to his country with the “really unique expertise and knowledge” he has built over time, and to the government that has supported his company’s growth.
Rotorcorp has won export awards from the Georgia Department of Economic Develompent, the SBA, the National Association of Small Business International Trade Educators, or NASBITE, and the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s Export Challenge. He uses Ex-Im bank financing and guarantees often.
He knows trade deals are complex and that his voice will be one in a sea of others, but at least it will be taken into account — for the sake of his company and others like it.
“The underlying truth is that your voice isn’t at the table, it won’t be heard.”
See the full list of committee members here.
See more on the Rotorcorp website here.