We knew we wanted to export, we just didn’t know how. The [FSBDC] certificate program opened our eyes to opportunities and resources that made exporting a reality for our company. Cathy and the FSBDC connected us to the experts we needed to get started and we continue to rely on her for guidance as HERO FL grows.
The Florida SBDC Network is pleased to recognize Carlton Smith, Executive Vice President of Jacksonville-based Heavy Equipment Resources of Florida, Inc. (HERO FL), a company that exports machinery and other materials to construction and mining industries around the world. HERO FL was recently named the 2014 U.S. Small Business Administration Exporter of the Year at the Regional, State and District levels. The company was one of ten to win at the regional level.
As Exporter of the Year, HERO FL is playing an important role in reaching President Obama's goal of doubling U.S. exports by the end of 2014. In 2013, the company was the recipient of the President's "E" Award, the highest and most prestigious award an exporter can receive by the United States Government.
HERO FL's story began in 2008. Smith, his father, Leslie, and Uncle George were the owners of a successful commercial landscaping business. In January, they attended the Florida SBDC at the University of North Florida's (UNF) inaugural International Trade Certificate Program. The trio had no prior knowledge of exporting but had been paying close attention to the news about the expansion of the JAXPORT and the opportunities available by selling internationally. Their landscaping company had branched out to offer general contracting and buying and selling construction equipment. They saw an opportunity to sell used equipment and parts globally but needed help.
With the assistance of Florida SBDC at UNF consultant Cathy Hagan, HERO FL was born. Hagan also introduced the owners to Jorge Arce from the U.S. Department of Commerce and Larry Bernaski from Enterprise Florida, who were both instrumental in helping HERO FL complete their first export transaction with a buyer in Germany.
Since that time, 100 percent of the company’s revenues now stem from export sales. HERO FL has experienced significant growth in Africa and Central and South America. Currently, they have customers in twelve countries and have negotiations underway in nine more. Sales at HERO FL grew 344 percent from 2010 to 2013. They have expanded since their inception from a small two-person operation to five employees, with plans of hiring more in 2014.
According to Hagan, HERO FL’s competitive advantage stems from its ability to expediently deliver time-sensitive products that have very limited availability to remote mine sites across the world. Each customer has very different needs so HERO FL analyzes these differences and creates supply chain solutions. HERO FL also has partnered with the Export-Import Bank of the United States to offer financing for qualified customers.
Smith is enthusiastic about encouraging other small businesses to export and hopes they can learn from HERO FL’s story.
The Florida SBDC Network has “Export Ready” services in place to help new-to-market, new-to-export businesses in Florida expand globally:
• International Trade Certificate Program, one of a few National Association of Small Business International Trade Educators (NASBITE) accredited trade assistance programs in the world, and the only one in Florida.
• Export Marketing Plan Service assists qualified Florida-based, “new-to-export” manufacturers and service providers with overseas growth strategies, in partnership with Enterprise Florida and the U.S. Commercial Service. FSBDC consultants develop customized export marketing plans that include a thorough export readiness assessment, industry analysis, market analysis with target market recommendations, a review of overseas trade opportunities, and an action plan that may include trade mission participation.
• Florida Export Series, a three step program to operational effectiveness and ultimate success.
• No-cost professional consulting in a variety of areas such as financing, accounting, taxes, marketing, web strategy, and more to help Florida businesses export successfully.
HERO FLCarlton Smith