China, here they come.
Aventure Aviation, an aircraft spare parts supplier based in Peachtree City, now has the resources to crack into a huge market with $20,000 in prize money awarded through the Atlanta Metro Export Challenge Sept. 20.
Aventure, which already brings in some 80 percent of its sales from overseas, took home the award after becoming the last company left standing at the end of a contest that whittled 35 grant winners down to five finalists, three of which split the last $35,000 doled out by JPMorgan Chase, the sponsor of the Global Cities Initiative.
Pure Air Filtration came in second, winning $10,000 in prize money, while United Sciences, which makes 3D scanning technology, took home an additional $5,000 in third place. Other finalists included AdEdge Technologies and DDM Systems.
All had already won $5,000 of matching funds in the initial round. They were asked to come back for a pitch day detailing how they had used the funds and what they would do with additional money to boost overseas sales. Fourteen companies participated in the pitches.
Pure Air Filtration President Kevin Jameson sought to be memorable: He donned lederhosen in his pitch, highlighting the fact that his company was pursuing leads gained through participation in a Munich trade show. The company was back in Germany and Spain this month following up on some of the more than 120 potential sales that came through the trade show.
Trade shows were highlighted as an important conduit for companies going overseas. That point thrilled William Pate, president of the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau, who keynoted the luncheon as the leader representing what has become the metro area’s top export category: travel and tourism.
Mr. Pate said trade-show traffic was a main driver of the 51 million visitors who descended on Atlanta in 2015 and spent more than $15 billion in total. About a third of attendees at trade shows were from overseas, and the city hosted about 1.2 million international visitors in all who spent $1.6 billion throughout the year.
The top origin country was the United Kingdom, with 100,000 visitors, but China at 68,000 was No. 2 and is increasing at the most rapid rate. Projections are for Chinese international travel to grow from 2 percent of its giant population to 5 percent.
“That 3 percentage point is a lot of people,” said Mr. Pate, who returned from a major tourism conference in China two weeks ago. He also noted that the South is “under-indexed” against more traditional destinations like New York and Los Angeles.
Mr. Pate predicted that Atlanta’s edge over most cities in nonstop international destinations would widen with new service to Asia, following up on new service from Turkish Airlines and Delta Air Lines Inc.’s newly announced nonstop flight to Seoul.
That will help its argument with international travelers, which make up the “greatest incremental source of growth” in the travel sector.
Highlighting expenditures by foreign visitors as an export served another purpose of the Metro Export Plan developed over the last two years through the Brookings Institution-backed Global Cities Initiative. Metro-area export boosters wanted to show that services, not just products, can be sold overseas.
In fact, services eclipse goods as a proportion of Atlanta’s $26.8 billion in exports, led by tourism and air travel, along with education.
Still, exports account for just 9 percent of the metro area’s economy, despite the fact that the city has moved up seven slots to No. 64 out of the top 100 metros for “export intensity,” the proportion of a city’s economy produced by international sales.
“I still think that’s underrepresented. That needs to be a larger percentage, and that’s why we’re all here,” said David Balos, market leader for Alabama and Georgia at JPMorgan Chase.
For those that didn’t win this time, there’s a second-chance option: United Parcel Service Inc. is also taking applications through Oct. 3 for its UPS X-Port Challenge, in which winners can take home up to $10,000 in shipping credits.