A Gwinnett County manufacturer has netted a national export award for entering new markets overseas with help from the U.S. Commerce Department.
Suwanee-based Winton Machine Co. in September took home the U.S. Export Achievement Award in part for its strategic plan to break into Russia and India, both countries that show promise for the company’s specialized CNC machines used for bending tubing or coax cable. Winton’s customers include auto, appliance and defense manufacturers.
Winton is already an experienced exporter that also won $5,000 for export operations when it became a semifinalist in the Metro Export Challenge this year. But in these new countries, the U.S. Commercial Service’s Atlanta office was vital in identifying sales agents that could help Winton crack the cultural code.
Winton has received frequent online inquiries from India, for instance, that have failed to translate into significant sales yet.
“It’s such a big country, you really have to have people there immersed in the culture with multiple agents and a service organization,” Lisa Winton, who co-founded the company with her husband in 1997, told Global Atlanta.
The Commercial Service’s Dina Molaison and others also offered invaluable advice about export regulations governing machinery sales abroad. These are aimed at ensuring foreign customers are real and are using industrial products for their intended purposes, Ms. Winton said. In Russia, the company hopes to target manufacturers selling to the defense sector, which could require special export licenses.
George Tracy, director of the Atlanta U.S. Export Assistance Center, said his office has developed a methodology to assess companies’ export readiness. Once they’ve cleared that hurdle, the center offers help navigating compliance issues.
“We’re measured on the results of our client’s export activity, so their success is our success,” Mr. Tracy said in a news release.
Winton’s next step with the Commercial Service is an in-depth plan to optimize its website for foreign markets. Winton once passively sold a machine online to South Korea, illustrating that a well-executed strategy would likely yield even more e-commerce sales.
Winton’s leaders and staff celebrated the award at their 13,000-square-foot factory in Suwanee, which is a long way from the basement where they started 20 years ago. The export journey began in 2013 after the Wintons learned the basics through Small Business Development Center’s ExportGA program. The company has now exported to 20 countries, from Saudi Arabia to Sweden.
“We had a vision of becoming a local manufacturer that could bring jobs to Georgia. Manufacturing has such a wide supply chain that we knew we could make a difference to our local economy,” Ms. Winton said.
Republican Rep. Rob Woodall (GA-07) acknowledged Winton’s vital local impact while visiting the factory to present the award. Small business, he said, is the “backbone” of the U.S. economy.
“Their hard work and commitment turned a vision into an industry-leading manufacturer that not only serves countless clients across the world, but remains an invaluable contributor to our community,” the congressman said in the news release.
After his tour, Mr. Woodall made time to host a 30-minute Town Hall meeting with employees, outlining legislative achievements in Washington and aiming to answer questions about how policy changes could affect workers.
“I have 20 folks who have been manufacturing their whole lives, and he really enjoyed being there and talking to folks,” said Ms. Winton, who employs 30 people overall in the factory. “It was very responsive, very honest.”