Finding new markets
Exporting creates new opportunities for Virginia businesses
During the last three years, Winchester-based Trex Co. has seen major growth in exports of its composite decking materials.
Part of that growth can be attributed to the company’s participation in the Virginia Leaders in Export Trade (VALET) program, which works with companies to grow their international sales. Trex graduated from the two-year program in 2018.
“Up until recently we didn’t have a lot of resources to devote to the international world other than the markets that we key on,” says Brad Felix, director of international sales for Trex. “I think when we’re looking at other markets, whether it be smaller countries or countries we didn’t know much about, we were looking to get some help with exploring those markets.”
Trex’s largest international customers are based in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and countries in Scandinavia. Trex previously had a regionalized sales program in France. Since graduating from the VALET program, it has expanded its sales country-wide. “We’ve hired someone and used some of the research that the VALET program offered us to help propel that person into a strategy that we’re going forward with,” says Felix.
Since Trex was founded in 1996, it has grown to become the world’s largest manufacturer of wood-alternative decking products.
Felix says the company sees a big potential for sales growth internationally. “While this is the beginning of our endeavors, it’s showing great potential,” he says of the company’s exports. “I think the outdoor living movement is not different than it is in the U.S., so there’s ample opportunity for Trex.”
Think there’s an international market for your product or service, but not sure where to start?
Luckily, there are a number of state and federal resources to help companies navigate the complexities of exporting. Companies can benefit from a wide range of sources when it comes to selling to markets around the world.
Below are sources available for companies interested in exporting.
Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) – International Trade:
Virginia’s main point of entry for companies interested in exporting. The VEDP – International Trade website is packed with information about exporting and includes contacts for local experts that can help your company achieve its international goals. www.exportvirginia.org
International market research: VEDP – International Trade: offers Virginia businesses access to international consultants in more than 75 countries around the world. These experts provide in-country market research specific to a company’s product or service. They also arrange match-making appointments with potential distributors and customers. www.exportvirginia.org/services/international-market-research
International trade missions and trade shows: Face-to-face meetings are even more important to international business than they are to domestic marketing. VEDP – International Trade helps Virginia companies meet potential customers and partners through participation in trade missions and trade shows. Trade missions are tailored visits with business meetings arranged on a company’s behalf and pre-qualified based on the company’s export market objectives. Trade shows provide a way for Virginia companies to connect with new customers and grow international sales by exhibiting their products. www.exportvirginia.org/events
Global Defense Program (GDP): The GDP helps Virginia’s defense companies diversify into new international markets. Eligible defense-related companies receive assistance with strategy, export compliance, matchmaking and translation. Companies can participate in on-continent vendor days with U.S. Combatant Commands as well as training sessions held throughout Virginia to help prepare them to go global. Defense-related companies also receive market research services such as identifying potential distributors and due diligence reports. www.exportvirginia.org/services/programs-grants
State Trade Expansion Program (STEP): Designed to increase the number of small businesses that are exporting, STEP provides a range of trade-related resources and services to small businesses. The program is funded in part through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). www.exportvirginia.org/services/programs-grants
Virginia Leaders in Export Trade (VALET): VALET is a two-year international business acceleration program. This program offers a combination of capital resources provided by the commonwealth and professional services from expert, private sector partners. Program benefits include executive training, international sales plan development, educational events and customized research. Only 25 companies per year are accepted into the VALET program. www.exportvirginia.org/services/programs-grants
U.S. Department of Commerce
Export.gov: Hosted by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration, Export.gov is a gateway to the federal resources to help American businesses plan international sales strategies. The site includes market research and trade leads from the Commerce Department and a series of export education guides. www.export.gov
Export-Import Bank: The Export-Import Bank (EXIM) of the United States is the export credit agency for the country. EXIM helps exporters in need of financing when private lenders are unwilling or unable to do so. www.exim.gov
U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA): The USTDA connects American businesses with opportunities in the world’s fast-growing economies. The agency targets opportunities in the energy, transportation and telecommunications industries. www.ustda.gov