By Cathy Jett
A Stafford County company that deals with the invisible is trying to make itself more visible to international customers.
To boost its chances, VitaTech Electromagnetics applied for the Virginia Leaders in Export Trade, or VALET, program. It recently became one of 11 businesses around the state that were accepted into its 22nd class.
“This program can not only put us in contact with the right people—such as architects, universities and contractors—but also give us an idea if these countries have a lot of scientific innovation to make it worthwhile to invest our time and money,” said Christina Vitale, VitaTech’s business development manager.
The two-year VALET program is run by the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, a marketing organization the General Assembly created to help the state’s economy by increasing foreign exports.
VALET jump-starts companies’ export efforts by providing access to $15,000 in reimbursement funds from the state, and helping them target markets, develop marketing plans and do such things as update their websites.
To date, more than 174 Virginia companies have been accepted into the program. On average, they experience an 88 percent increase in international sales during and immediately after the program, according to the partnership’s website, ex portvirginia.org. Two of the most recent graduates are Syntronics LLC of Spotsylvania County and Shibuya Hoppmann Corp. of Culpeper County.
Gary Marsh, executive vice president for sales at Shibuya Hoppmann, said that VALET’s service agents in England and Ireland were able to set up appointments with companies that had previously ignored him, and he closed deals worth about $1 million.
Having agents who could say they were working for the state of Virginia, he said, had more credibility than his title as vice president.
Exporting is big business in Virginia. In 2010, Virginia’s service exports totaled $13.8 billion and supported 125,012 jobs, according to the website. The next year, the state’s the total value of Virginia exported of goods reached $18.1 billion, a 5.5 percent increase from 2010.
VitaTech specializes in dealing with electromagnetic interference (EMI), or radio frequency interference (RFI), as it’s called when at high frequencies. Radio and television stations, transmission lines, subways, elevators—even cellphones and bug zappers—can be sources.
“Not many people are aware of EMI emissions because they are invisible,” Vitale said. “A lot of scientists who are using electron microscopes are having variations on a daily basis, but don’t realize they have an EMI issue.”
VitaTech Electromagnetics provides such services as measuring EMI/RFI at new or existing buildings; helping universities, hospitals and research labs plan where to put electrophysiology instruments and diagnostic medical imaging tools such as MRIs; and giving practical and cost-effective EMI mitigation solutions, such as installing shielding systems.
“We typically anchor 4- by 12-foot aluminum sheets that weigh 140 pounds to the ceilings, walls and floor,” Vitale said. “Then a welder has to seam each plate from top to bottom so no interference can come into the shield room. Even if there’s one small hole, EMI can come in and interfere.”
VitaTech Electromagnetics already has had some inquiries from people in such countries as Mexico and Brazil, but is hoping the VALET program will help it market in others as well. And it can use VALET services to determine if a company in a country such as China is legitimate.
“What happens if they steal our intellectual property?” Vitale said. “Being associated with VALET is a safety measure, in my opinion.”
For Buddy Lauer, president and CEO of Syntronics, an added advantage of VALET is that the association with the program doesn’t end when the class does.
“There’s great value in the relationships we’ve made with folks right here in Virginia,” he said. “They’ll help us if we need to check out a distributor. They have a great resource base that will help us in the future. We’re pretty pleased that Virginia is doing this. It’s a strong program, and we hope it continues.”
Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407