Three years ago, Gamber-Johnson’s president, Brian Wagner, attended an economic summit in Stevens Point and listened with interest to presentations highlighting key reasons companies should strongly consider exporting their products.
Two points stood out most – 95 percent of the world’s consumers reside outside of the United States and, due to aging baby boomers, within 10 years 93 percent of the middle-class buying power will come from beyond the domestic borders.
At that time, Gamber-Johnson’s exporting efforts could best be described as “reactive” and “accidental.” Exports accounted for less than one-half of 1 percent of the company’s overall revenue. The figure currently stands at 20 percent due to the company’s formalized effort to grow its exports.
For its efforts, Gamber-Johnson received the 2015 Governor’s Export Achievement Award. Each year, the Governor’s office salutes Wisconsin firms that achieved extraordinary results in international markets or have contributed to Wisconsin’s ability to compete in the global economy.
Founded in 1954, Gamber-Johnson is a Stevens Point-based manufacturer of systems for mounting electronics in vehicles that appear in police and military vehicles and other trucks, cars, vans, SUVs and motorcycles.
Not wanting to face fierce competitive pressures from a dwindling domestic market, Gamber-Johnson’s management opted to take part in ExporTech to find its most optimal global markets with the strongest return on investment and least risk.
The Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership’s ExporTech program offers a customized, action-oriented export expansion strategy. Graduates of the program report achieving sales increases averaging $900,000 within six to nine months after completing the program.
The process quickly guided Gamber-Johnson to potential export markets, while connecting the company to Wisconsin’s exporting ecosystem. Gamber-Johnson found tax supported grants and market research; international banking support; global logistics; and best practices from real-world exporters, all of whom became a go-to support group as it developed its export plan.
Wagner said that through the effort of his staff and support from the state, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, Centergy and the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership, Gamber-Johnson is currently doing businesses in more than 30 countries.
“Since 2011, Gamber-Johnson’s export business has continued to grow dramatically and has significantly contributed to our overall success,” Wagner said.
There is significant value in having a strategically-crafted export expansion plan, said Gautam Malik, director of operations and international sales for Gamber-Johnson.
“Exports are a pillar of our strategy to grow,” Malik said. “Exporting is achievable if you know the strategy behind trade finance, can identify and manage customers and channel partners, conduct sufficient market research to pinpoint the correct countries to enter, understand legal compliance, and have a cohesive go-to-market strategy and brand promise.”
Gamber-Johnson is one of the company’s leading the charge in Wisconsin.
A focus on international markets resulted in the state reaching a new record for exporting in 2014 at $23.4 billion, up 18 percent from four years ago, Gov. Scott Walker noted.
“With more than 80 percent of the world’s economic growth over the next decade expected to occur outside the United States, exporting provides an important avenue for growth for Wisconsin companies of all sectors and all sizes,” said Reed Hall, secretary and CEO of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, which administers the award.
Gamber-Johnson’s success is attracting nationwide attention as well. Last, year, it became the first ExporTech graduate in the country to win the United States Department of Commerce President’s “E” Award for Export Excellence, the highest recognition any U.S. firm can receive for making a significant contribution to the expansion of the country’s exports.
“We are pleased to see Gamber-Johnson win the Wisconsin Governor’s Export Achievement Award this year,” said Roxanne Baumann, director of global engagement for the WMEP. “The company has become an advocate of the value in developing a well-thought-out export expansion plan, and have shared its best practices to urge others to develop an ExporTech plan.”
Wagner and Malik were on hand to receive the award on May 7 at the Wisconsin International Trade Conference in Milwaukee.