Carter Machinery to Expand Internationally

An excerpt from the Valley Business FRONT April 2013 article, "Growing internationally," by  Randolph Walker

Executive Summary: The state of Virginia is eager to help companies like Carter Machinery in Salem, Virginia seeking to expand international sales.

Somebody out there needs a 785B off-road truck. Sam Hampton's got plenty for sale.

Sam Hampton of Carter MachineryThey're big. They hold 500 gallons of diesel (cost close to $2,000 to gas up) and haul 150 tons of dirt and rock. The 3,158-cubic inch, 12-cylinder engine puts out 1,290 horsepower. The tires are ten feet tall.

Expertly rebuilt by the mechanics at Carter Machinery in Salem, Virginia, these Cat heavy trucks go for $1.6- $1.7 million.

The buyers won't necessarily be in the United States. They might be mine equipment managers in the growing economies of South America, South Africa or Australia.

Hoping to expand international sales, Carter enrolled in VALET, a program of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership. VALET stands for Virginia Leaders in Export Trade.

“It's a wonderful program that assists Virginia companies with their desires to grow internationally,” says Sam Hampton, director of marketing at Carter, “and it's flexible enough that regardless of what your industry is, they've designed it in such a way that it can be tailored to your specific needs.”

At any one time, there are 50 companies in VALET. Carter enrolled in January, 2013. “Graduates” of the two-year program include John C. Nordt Company, Foot Levelers, Ply Gem, TMEIC Corporation, Virginia Transformer and PESCO-BEAM.

A recent ownership change has spurred Carter's interest. “We've been doing business internationally but it's never been part of our strategic goals to grow that base,” Sam says.

At the introductory meeting in Richmond, Virginia the VEDP helped Carter analyze bills of lading in certain foreign markets to get a handle on the competition. Carter plans to use this and other data, plus the VEDP's expertise, “to help us scope and refine the marketplace to narrow down and focus on areas that give us the best opportunity to win,” Sam says.

The cost to Carter? Nothing. In fact, participants receive $15,000 to offset certain expenses. Sam plans to put grant money toward converting Carter's website into a virtual showroom. “It's important for us to put our best foot forward on this website. That money's going to help us jump start this process,” he says.

The VALET program started in 2002. Funded by the General Assembly, its budget is “about $500,000 plus, including company reimbursements and administrative salaries for two managers,” according to Paul Grossman, vice president of international trade for VEDP.

Acceptance is competitive. Companies must have at least 20 employees, $2 million in sales and be profitable in the U.S. market, and must have spent at least $20,000 in international marketing prior to joining the program. Those are the minimums. The average participant has $34 million in sales, 130 employees, and has been in business more than 30 years.

There are four required meetings annually, with additional webinars. Participants must complete an international business plan before receiving any grant money. “They have to engage. If they don't engage, we kick 'em out of the program,” says Grossman.

Read the full article in the April 2013 issue of Valley Business FRONT.

Companies interested in finding out whether they qualify for VALET should see exportvirginia.org or contact Paul Ehrich, international trade manager for VEDP's South Central region, at (540) 772-3905 or pehrich@yesvirginia.org.

Photo: Randolph Walker

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