Growing Our Export by Carl Kotala

Years of hard work trying to establish a foothold in the export market are starting to pay off for Brevard County.  In reports released by both Enterprise Florida and the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast, the number of exports coming from Brevard County jumped 35.5 percent from 2010 to 2011. Using Palm Bay, Melbourne and Titusville as the Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), exports have grown from $765 million in 2007 to $1.2 billion in 2011.

That latter figure represents the sixth-highest export figure in the state during that time frame. “I think what we’ve seen in the last few years is the maturing, the metamorphosis of our industrial base as our exports increase,” said Lynda Weatherman, president and CEO of the EDC. Brevard County’s exports to the NAFTA and APEC trade zones have increased by 148.2 percent and 71.4 percent respectively since 2009 according to numbers released by the EDC.

A Few of Our Rising Stars

Walk into the lobby of Globe Wireless’ Palm Bay headquarters and you will see a large monitor projecting a map of the world with 8,000 red dots spread out in virtually every ocean or buttressed up next to a sea port.

The dots, which update themselves every 15 minutes, represent the exact location of the ships for which Globe Wireless provides satellite communication services. While it doesn’t necessarily answer the question of “Where’s Waldo,” at least we know if he’s on one of those ships … he’s got cell phone reception.

“What we do is provide satellite communication services to commercial vessels,” Globe Wireless President David Kagan said. “It enables the vessel anywhere in the world to communicate at near broadband level.”

Though the company’s headquarters are on the Space Coast, much of its $95 million in revenue is generated from work exported to ship owners and ship managers around the world. In fact, Kagan said only 10-12 percent of Globe Wireless’ business is done in the United States.

 

Reaching Around the World

Globe Wireless has 100 employees in its Palm Bay office and roughly 210 overall. Finance, accounting, engineering, research and development, customer administration and support are all handled out of Brevard.

“We’re one of the few companies in the industry that does things a little differently,” Kagan explained. “We own our own distribution network, meaning we have 12 offices around the world in all of the major shipping cities – Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, London, Rotterdam, Hamburg, Denmark.  We have our own staff at those sites. The other thing we do differently than most of our competitors is provide what we call value-added services.”

That includes pre-paid calling services for crew members, and the ability to get onto the Internet.

“It’s not just about someone being able to send an email and talk on the phone (while) on the ship,” Kagan continued. “We try to do it better and more efficiently. We enable cell phones to be used on the vessels with a pre-paid SIM card from Globe Wireless. And we’re the only ones that do it (in the commercial shipping industry).”

Kagan explained what is happening with the business right now is almost a “perfect storm.” While the commercial industry is going through difficult times, with shipping rates decreasing, the need for communication technology is expanding, in part because insurance companies want more access to see where the ships are located and the shippers, naturally, want to know when their goods will be arriving. “Our capabilities allow them to use their information smarter and to be smarter in the way they run their business.”

On top of that, Inmarsat, a world leader in providing global satellite networks, is ending some of its products as it rolls out new technology. There are more than 2,500 vessels Globe Wireless serves that will soon have to upgrade. “We have plenty of orders (more than 300) to fill and plenty of technology conversions to perform,” Kagan stated.

Aloe Vera for Everyone, Everywhere

When Mick Anderson first joined Terry Laboratories in 1976, the company – which bills itself as the world’s oldest and largest manufacturer of aloe vera extracts and concentrates – was already doing business internationally. As the sales director, it was his job to help grow that market.

Today, Terry Labs ships products to 42 countries and their exports account for $6 million – or roughly one third – of the company’s business. Whereas aloe vera was once thought of as strictly a topical product, it is now used in cosmetics/skin care, food/beverages and nutritional applications.

Anderson estimated there are roughly 10 companies worldwide that are “totally vertically integrated,” meaning aloe suppliers who control their own product from growing, to harvesting, to processing. Other companies, he said, have very little influence over what they’re selling. They get the product in bulk, slap a label on it and ship it out.

Terry Labs employs 75 people in Mexico, where the aloe vera is grown and harvested before being shipped to Melbourne in concentrated, refrigerated form. Once it arrives on the Space Coast, there are 20 people here who help process the various products and ship them out.

Reasons for Confidence

Executive Vice President/General Manager James Gambino’s company has good reason to call itself the industry’s leader. Terry Labs recently became the only aloe vera manufacturer to receive GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) status from the FDA for both its powder and liquid products.

“Aloe has never been a peak and valley type of ingredient,” Anderson explained. “It’s never been passé this year and back in (the next). There’s always been a growth in aloe. Every year, there have been Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 companies introducing products that contain aloe.

No. 1, the consumer believes in it. They want to see it in their products, and it has a legitimate reason to be there.”

Terry Labs, which made the first major innovation in the market when it began concentrating aloe much like orange juice, has just introduced another revolutionary process that Anderson said will change the industry. It’s called NatureLOCK, which allows Terry Labs to preserve the highest percentage of polysaccharides and make a product that is more pure than ever before.

“NatureLOCK is definitely going to be an industry changer,” Anderson said.

Advanced Magnet Lab

Mark Senti’s company doesn’t rely on exports as a primary revenue stream, but it just announced a joint venture with Chile’s Advanced Innovation Center and Latin America’s Fundacion Avina that could have a significant impact not only on Florida, but around the globe.

Advanced Magnet Lab (AML) has built a well-deserved reputation for developing innovative magnetic and superconducting-based solutions in the fields of energy, medical and aerospace. Its joint venture in Chile is expected to help accelerate the commercialization of the next generation of industrial motors, utility grid devices, water treatment systems and cutting-edge technologies through the use of superconductivity.

Senti likened the potential breakthrough to the invention of the transistor, which Bill Shockley not only helped commercialize, but led to the development of California’s famous Silicon Valley. The difference is that while Shockley initially didn’t realize how incredibly transforming its applications would eventually become, the benefits of superconductivity are already well known.

“Our utility grids, our energy use in motors and generators and transmission of power are still based on 18th century technology,” Senti said. “Superconductivity has the promise to change all of that. It won’t happen overnight, but you start with pieces of it.”

“Florida and the Space Coast are unique for this opportunity,” he said. “First of all, we have three research facilities in Tallahassee (National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, Applied Superconductivity Center and the Center for Advanced Power Systems) that use superconductivity and are world-class facilities in developing new superconductivity technology.”

Senti declared, “Here on the Space Coast, we understand the space and aeronautics industry, two areas where superconductivity is seen as the future. Combining our research capabilities and our unique industries we have here, our unique assets in terms of people and complementary technologies, we can be the conduit for the U.S. to take this emerging technology to create multiple industries that have global impact. That’s what opens up the opportunity for export.”