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September 24. 2012 8:31PM

Grant will help Granite State businesses ramp up exports


Haywood Schmidt, president of Axenics Inc. in Nashua, is joined by Christopher Way, interim director of the N.H. Division of Economic Development, to discuss a new grant awarded to New Hampshire to help promote exporting among small businesses. (KIMBERLY HOUGHTON PHOTO)

NASHUA — New Hampshire will receive a $300,000 federal grant to help boost its competitive edge in the global market.

Officials gathered Monday at Axenics Inc. for the announcement, praising the State Trade Export Promotion grant program and its second round of funding.

Last year, the Granite State obtained nearly $300,000 from a STEP grant, and is receiving the same amount in this second phase of the initiative, which provides states with grants for small business exporting assistance programs.

“These grants are going to be critical,” said U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., explaining the need to partner at the local, state and federal levels to help small companies grow.

This year, about $30 million in STEP grants are being distributed to various states, Shaheen said. Authorized under the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010, a total of $90 million in grants will be made during a three-year period.

The aim of the STEP initiative is to encourage small businesses to export products overseas and to increase the value of exports for small businesses that already are exporting.

“The STEP program is designed to leverage state resources,” said Jeanne Hulit, regional administrator for the Small Business Administration in New England.

Companies like Axenics are driving the economy forward, she said.

About 88 percent of New Hampshire exporters are small businesses, said Hulit, adding they need all the support they can get to increase sales and create jobs.

Her comments were echoed by Christopher Way, interim director for the state Division of Economic Development. Small businesses in the state do not want to sit on the sidelines, but would rather explore opportunities, including exporting.

Way said about 24 small New Hampshire businesses will be offered matching grants from the second phase of the STEP program and an additional 400 to 500 Granite State workers will receive training.

Some of the remaining funds from the first round of STEP grants will be used when representatives from Axenics head to Montreal to participate in an aerospace trade show next week.

“Training programs are absolutely essential,” said Way, explaining such programs likely would not be available without STEP money.

At Axenics, the STEP grant is allowing the company to compete worldwide, said Haywood Schmidt , company president. Axenics manufactures stainless steel tubing components, among other products, and assembles gas and chemical handling systems.

“We are happy where we are now, and we are excited about the future,” he said, adding the 28-year-old company has gone from $2 million a year in sales to about $12 million.

Its goal, said Schmidt, is to double sales in the next five years and add about 25 employees.

Although there are extra costs when conducting business outside of the United States, the STEP grant will help Axenics and other small companies in New Hampshire offset some of those costs, said Chris Coutis, Axenics vice president.

khoughton@newstote.com



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