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Nevada small businesses use federal dollars to go international

Updated February 7, 2019 - 5:00 am

Small-business owner Steve Harrington said business trips abroad make a world of difference for his company. But one of the biggest hurdles for growth is traveling costs.

Traveling “enables us to meet face-to-face with customers over email. It helps us develop new products, it helps us grow sales,” said the owner of Henderson-based Retro Manufacturing, which makes radios and seat belts for classic cars. The company’s customer base spans from North America to Europe, Australia and the Middle East.

To help small businesses like Harrington’s enter and develop overseas markets, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development has awarded a total of $56,995 in federal grant money to eight companies, including Retro Manufacturing.

Looking outside Nevada

The grant money comes from the Small Business Administration’s State Trade Expansion Program. The eight grants ranged from $1,995 for Las Vegas-based research company Hickory Ridge Group to $10,000 for businesses like pet supply export company Pet International.

Since 2015, more than 45 local small businesses in Nevada have received more than $220,000 from this program.

“These are smaller businesses that are looking to export their products or services,” said Paul Anderson, executive director at the GOED. “These companies are able to see a bigger picture on where these products and services are able to fit.”

Anderson said the idea of risking capital on things like international conventions can be daunting for smaller businesses; this grant money is there to lighten that burden.

“For them, the advantage is being able to reach outside the Nevada economy and the U.S. economy,” he said.

The funding can be used for pre-approved export expenses like trade shows, foreign market sales trips, international marketing materials, overseas interpreters and more.

Strengthening communications

This was the third time Retro Manufacturing has received this grant; it received $10,000 through STEP this year. Harrington said the money has enabled the company to have about 20 percent of its customers outside the U.S.

Traveling has “helped us communicate better with our overseas customers,” he said. “Our relationships weren’t as strong before.”

He credits these interactions for helping the company ramp up sales revenue and collect feedback that allows them to develop new products. The grant money has allowed Retro Manufacturing to travel to more than 15 countries and add about seven staff members over the last three years.

“It’s quite expensive to travel overseas,” he said. The grant money “has helped our business. … In the last three years, we’ve grown 35 percent.”

Anderson said these small business relations play a major role in strengthening Nevada’s economy. The GOED estimates that the businesses awarded this grant have generated more than $1.7 million in revenue so far.

“The export of products and services means more money is going into Nevada and more jobs are being created,” he said.

Contact Bailey Schulz at bschulz@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0233. Follow @bailey_schulz on Twitter.

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