By Chris Teale (Courtesy photo)
The Virginia Economic Development Partnership announced last month that a local business was one of nine in the state selected to take part in its Virginia Leaders in Export Trade program.
South Washington Street-based Northern Defense Industries, Inc. will spend two years in the program, which is designed to help companies committed to expanding international exports. NDI is one of 269 companies in the state to have been selected for the VALET program since it began in 2002.
NDI is part of the AMS Group, which provides technology and logistical support to commercial, defense and security clients. It is regarded as an industry leader in maritime, coastal and critical infrastructure security. It specializes in the design, test, installation and management of fully integrated air, land, sea and underwater security systems.
New participants in the program have access to $30,000 in reimbursement funds from commonwealth coffers. The program provides its participants with assistance from a team of experienced international service providers to help meet their international goals.
That team includes attorneys, web designers, bankers, translators, accountants and freight forwarders, available free of charge or at reduced rates.
“The VALET program puts participating companies on the fast track to international business growth by connecting them with the necessary tools for successful export sales,” said Paul Grossman, vice president of international trade at VEDP, in a statement. “Since its inception in 2002, the program has worked with nearly 270 businesses to accelerate their international sales growth. We are happy to welcome NDI to VALET and look forward to working with them over the course of the next two years.”
NDI president Robert Janssen said the company already does business in Mexico and has worked in both east and west Africa, while it is looking to expand into Colombia, Israel and additional Middle Eastern countries.
Janssen said NDI’s domestic sales also remain strong. They have provided services to the Naval Undersea Warfare Center under a contract with the U.S. Navy and have worked with defense company Northrop Grumman among others. Janssen said NDI has been able to establish itself as part of a trade mission to Mexico representing Virginia and that he hopes to expand its business in that country.
“We’ve already had numerous teleconferences with our program manager that’s supporting us in Virginia and my team down in Mexico to meet with Mexican delegations to ensure that when we go down there, I’m not only going down there as NDI or the AMS Group or an individual company, I’m going down there as part of a Virginia delegation,” Janssen said. “What VEDP brings to us is a level of commitment and an added sense of legitimacy as we’re talking to foreign nations.”
Janssen said his team will work with VEDP to set specific goals and put together a comprehensive plan of action once they explore potential synergies between their company and the state organization.
“I’m really appreciative of being selected, but also participating in a level of commitment and support from the state of Virginia as well,” Janssen said. “It’s going to be a really neat partnership and I’m very confident that at the end of the two-year period, we will have the requisite increase in revenue and market space that we were hoping for in the very beginning.”
Stephanie Landrum, president and CEO of the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, said the program is one of a number of things AEDP recommends companies take part in to help grow their revenue.
“It gives them some more stability, especially for companies like those in the defense industry, as the majority of their revenue and sales tend to come from one entity,” Landrum said. “In general, most companies and organizations are always trying to diversify so that they’re less at risk of losing their contract or when they do lose a contract that it doesn’t devastate the business.”
NDI is not the first city-based business to take part in the VALET program. Landrum pointed to the success of Lansinoh Laboratories,Inc.onNorthFairfax Street, which signed an agreement with MEXEX to distribute its breastfeeding products in Mexico.
MEXEX is a group of Mexican companies that specialize in manufacturing, distributing and selling products for infants. Lansinoh’s products are now available in more than 60 countries.
In addition, ThinkFun, Inc. and Trinity Applied Strategies Corporation both were part of the VALET class of 2013. The former is based on Cameron Street, and makes logic puzzles and games to help parents make learning fun for their children while teaching thinking skills.
The latter provides security and risk management services to governments and corporations throughout the world from its headquarters on North Fairfax Street.
State officials say such an emphasis on international trade in addition to strong domestic growth has been a great benefit to Virginia’s economy.
“My administration is committed to helping existing Virginia businesses succeed in the international marketplace, making our economy even stronger,” said Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) in a statement last month when several companies graduated from the program. “International trade is a key part of my strategic plan to spur private sector job creation and build a new Virginia economy, and the VALET program has been an important catalyst for that private sector growth.”