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Export Champions Start Small But Don’t Think Small

Cargo operations at Miami International Airport are part of the export strength of South Florida, which accounts for four of this year’s 43 “E” Award winners.

Photo courtesy of Miami Dade Aviation Department

If every picture tells a story, then every trophy does too.

The 64 companies and organizations honored this week with Presidential Awards for export achievements hail from 32 states and from cities as big as Los Angeles and New York and as small as Bonnieville, Kentucky, and Tea, South Dakota.

The “E” and “E Star” awards, created in 1961 and conferred by the U.S. Department of Commerce, recognize contributions to increasing U.S. exports. Forty-three of the recipients earned the award by demonstrating a sustained increase in export sales over a four-year period or by demonstrating that increase again over a subsequent four-year period.

California leads the way with six of the 43 honorees (14%), only appropriate for a state that exported more than $178.7 billion worth of goods in 2023 (second to Texas with $444.6 billion, most of it energy products). Florida and North Carolina claim four export award winners apiece, followed by Connecticut with three. South Florida accounts for all four Florida winners, three of them in Miami.

A total of 21 organizations were honored with “E” or “E Star” Awards for export service in assisting and facilitating export activities. Among them were such organizations as Regions Bank in Birmingham, Alabama; the American Association of Independent Music in New York; FedEx Corporation in Memphis, Tennessee; and Torres Trade Law in Dallas, Texas. Also notable among the service recipients were several public economic development agencies and institutions:

  • Regional Growth Partnership, Toledo, Ohio
  • Virginia Economic Development Partnership Division of International Trade, Richmond
  • New Jersey Office of Export Promotion, Trenton
  • Center for Global Business, Robert H. Smith School of Business, College Park, Maryland
  • Massachusetts Export Center, Newtown, Massachusetts
  • Ohio Department of Development, Columbus, Ohio

The full list of “E” and “E” Star Award winners is below. They all have a story to tell.


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2024 “E” Award Winners
COMPANY CITY STATE
American Fuel Cell and Coated Fabrics Magnolia Arkansas
American Trading International Inc. Los Angeles California
Lira Cosmeceutical Dublin California
Loring Smart Roast Santa Rosa California
Miyamoto International , Inc. West Sacramento California
Resecurity, Inc. Los Angeles California
Sentro Technologies USA, LLC Newport Beach California
Defibtech LLC Guilford Connecticut
Element 119 Thomaston Connecticut
The Woodstock Academy Woodstock Connecticut
International Code Council Washington D.C.
Cunsa International Miami Florida
HornerXpress Worldwide Fort Lauderdale Florida
Pan American Zinc Miami Florida
Walton and Post, Inc. Miami Florida
Sigma Recycling Norcross Georgia
Trans Globe LLC Woodstock Georgia
Stellar Industries Garner Iowa
High Point Aerotechnologies Boise Idaho
Cimcor, Inc. Merrillville Indiana
Oscarware, Inc. Bonnieville Kentucky
Flexo Concepts Plymouth Massachusetts
Wildlife Acoustics, Inc. Maynard Massachusetts
Sunnen Products Company St. Louis Missouri
University of Central Missouri Warrensburg Missouri
Argus Fire Control, Inc. Charlottesville North Carolina
Equilibar Fletcher North Carolina
NearshoreNetworks Asheville North Carolina
Sciencix, Inc. Cary North Carolina
Sable Systems International, Inc. North Las Vegas Nevada
Intelligent Security Systems Woodbridge New Jersey
Ben-Amun Company Inc. New York New York
AcraDyne Portland Oregon
Inert Products Scranton Pennsylvania
Loh Medical Clarks Summit Pennsylvania
Ruff Land Performance Kennels Tea South Dakota
Ace Pump Corporation Memphis Tennessee
BEYOND International Inc. Sugarland Texas
Fleetsoft Plano Texas
Mil Agro, Inc. Hyrum Utah
ExploreLearning, LLC Charlottesville Virginia
Hydro-Thermal Corporation Waukesha Wisconsin
S3 AeroDefense, LLC Milwaukee Wisconsin

Take Oscarware, Inc., the maker of the ceramic Grill Topper that allows grilling of foods without letting those foods drop through the grill grate. The company was launched 35 years ago this year by Debra and Reg Dudley when their friend Oscar Sullivan — “a former member of the Grand Ole Opry,” they note — asked the entrepreneurs if they could make something to allow campers to cook food without it sticking or falling through the grate.

Fast forward a few decades and the company has a lot more awards than the new export award to show for itself, including the 2009 Modern Woodmen of America’s Hometown Hero Award, the 2013 Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year and the 2017 Small Business Administration’s Kentucky Small Business Person of the Year Award to Debra Dudley, who placed first runner-up nationally. The company now makes a series of other products such as wok and griddle toppers, and they make them all in tiny Bonnieville, Kentucky, a town of fewer than 300 people that was once known as “Bacon Creek Station,” located in cave country along I-65 in south central Kentucky.

Or take Element 119, which according to the Conway Projects Database invested in a 36-job expansion in 2022 in Cheshire in its home state of Connecticut. Like Oscarware, it also is known for its ceramic coatings, in this case “advanced nanocoatings” for military, automotive and marine applications. The company got its start in 2010 developing coatings for customers such as Sikorsky and Bombardier. Named for a theoretical element that would become the next element recognized on the 118-element periodic table, the company has several active contracts with the United States Air Force and collaborative projects with the AFRL (Air Force Research Laboratory), NRL (Naval Research Laboratory), U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL), and NASA.

Element 119’s fellow Connecticut “E” Award winner Defibtech has also been in growth mode, expanding into new space last year in North Branford, Connecticut. Iowa-based Stellar Industries also expanded last year in Mason City, Iowa.

Also listed among the award winners is American Fuel Cell and Coated Fabrics Company of Magnolia, Arkansas, known by the shorthand Amfuel and known for its fuel cells and flexible liquid storage equipment for the defense, fire suppression and other industries.

The company’s origins go back to innovation developed during World War Two by engineers at U.S. Rubber and Goodyear Company that resulted in self-sealing fuel tanks for aircraft, allowing them to absorb damage and return to base safely. Today the company that began in Los Angeles and move to Arkansas in 1955 is one of only two manufacturers of rubber ballistic fuel bladders to the U.S. military. At one time the operation was on the brink of moving to Wichita Falls, Texas. But as Stephen Steed reported in the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette in 2018, despite attractive incentives and market potential in Texas, “that relationship never sparked: Amfuel closed the Wichita Falls operations at the end of 2017, and Amfuel and Magnolia caught each other on the rebound.”

As recounted in a report published by Manufacturing Today in 2022, the company has emerged from bankruptcy in 2017 in a big way.

“We have been in the midst of a dramatic transformation during the last four years, injecting over $50 million of capital, creating 100s of new jobs, tripling production in the first 12 months, and finally turning a profit for the company,” Amfuel President Michael Accordino told the magazine. “An initial injection of capital gave us life. It provided the basic elements we needed to run the business: raw materials, additional labor, and necessary consumables. Following that, we secured further investment through our partnerships with the U.S. Government and Department of Defense, enabling us to refurbish facilities, and acquire new equipment and manufacturing infrastructure across our operations. These investments assisted to stabilize the business and allowed us to grow in an organic way.”

Amfuel is located on 71 acres in Magnolia with 310,000 sq. ft. of operations area. The company says it employs approximately 300 workers with over 60 years of experience in the production of coated fabric products and aviation fuel cells. In 2020 the company expanded into a former Shanhouse warehouse with the support of a $200,000 economic development grant from the City of Magnolia, with the promise of expanding to at least 325 jobs overall and potentially adding 75 total jobs over 10 years. — Adam Bruns

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