NH aerospace conference stresses exports
‘The growth in this industry is happening internationally’
Speakers at the NH Aerospace and Defense Conference on Wednesday told businesses from both in and out of New Hampshire that exporting is essential for excelling in the aerospace/defense industry.
“There is a competitive mandate that you have to export,” said keynote Ken Hyatt, deputy undersecretary for international trade in the U.S. International Trade Administration. “The growth in this industry, [particularly] in the civil or defense side, is happening internationally.”
The conference, held at the Radisson Hotel in Manchester, was presented by the NH Aerospace and Defense Export Consortium, in partnership with the NH Division of Economic Development and the NH Manufacturing Extension Partnership. It featured almost 40 exhibitors as well as about 200 participants.
Among the topics discussed during panel discussions were “Global Markets: The Big Picture,” “Global Markets: Canada, Colombia, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom,” and “Foreign Military Sales.”
U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta and Gov. Maggie Hassan also made appearances at the conference to discuss the importance of the aero/defense sector to the New Hampshire economy.
“It’s an extraordinarily exciting time to be in this sector,” said Hyatt. “We have record levels of exports, and roughly 2 million of the jobs we created between 2009 and today are supported by exports.”
‘A solid future’
The panelists in the “Global Markets: The Big Picture” discussion highlighted the growth occurring throughout the global market.
“There are products out there that go through 104 countries,” said Diane Janeway, manager of customer solutions and content quality with the IHS Jane’s Market Forecast. “The global aerospace and defense industry does have a solid future.”
Janeway predicted that defense spending in Europe, Asia and the Middle East would grow as perceived threats to stability also grow.
Another panel more specifically outlined tactics that businesses can use to begin selling to those countries, which have some of the greatest predicted growth in the sector.
For example, panelist Gina Bento, commercial specialist from the U.S. consulate of Montreal, said that first exporting to the culturally similar Canada can act as a “launching pad” for expanding into Europe later on.
Among the exhibitors were companies like New England Wire Technologies of Lisbon, NH, and Textiles Coated International, which is based in Manchester. The conference also hosted some out-of-state visitors, including the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology, a nonprofit that “inserts technology” into small and medium-sized businesses.
“We decided to come up here and see if there were opportunities to help New Hampshire manufacturers,” said Don Balducci, director of CCAT’s Advanced Manufacturing Center.
Finding a partner
The conference also attracted some unexpected visitors from outside the aero/defense sector, including Arnie Alpert, co-director of the American Friends Service Committee in New Hampshire. He came to learn more about how “companies that sell weapons and do better in times of war influence policy that helps their business model.”
Another visitor from outside the sector was Randy Bolduc of Great Bay Community College, seeking companies to connect with students in the college’s Seacoast Manufacturing Exchange.
“We provide qualified applicants … so these companies can grow,” Bolduc said.
Representatives from BAE Systems, GE Aviation and Pratt & Whitney also spoke, highlighting the importance of generating interest among younger people in aero/defense in order to maintain the industry.
“We have to invest in community college. I think that’s a cornerstone of what we’re all about,” said Michael Papp of Pratt & Whitney.
Hyatt echoed the importance of “making the case for manufacturing.” He said that without enough new workers in the industry, international growth can’t be possible.
He also outlined other common barriers that prevent companies from making the effort to export. Aside from “classic” barriers, like tariffs, Hyatt said that lack of knowledge and difficulty finding a helpful partner often keep small businesses from feeling comfortable enough to go international.
Panelists also indicated that seeking a culturally knowledgeable partner to help with business transactions is required when selling to another country, no matter which one.
Though finding a partner can be difficult, Hyatt said businesses can’t let lack of knowledge stop them from expanding — with tightening U.S. defense spending, exporting is quickly becoming mandatory, he said. And, according to him, “one way to learn is by competing internationally.”
He encouraged businesses to take advantage of their resources and reach out to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which can help “level the playing field in the international market” by helping those small and medium-sized businesses make the necessary connections and excel.