Boeing, Hunter Engineering lead local exporting charge

11-2-12 St. Louis Business Journal
by Julie Murphy

When it comes to building sales through exports, many Missouri businesses are currently riding a wave of success.

“Through the first half of 2012 our state exports are on track to shatter last year’s state record of $14.1 billion,” said John Fougere, spokesman for the Missouri Department of Economic Development. In the first six months, exports from the state were up 6 percent compared to the same time last year, according to the DED’s data.

Transportation equipment and minerals and ores are currently the top two products exported by Missouri, while petroleum, coal products and pre-packaged software are the three fastest growing products for export from the state, Fougere said.

In the St. Louis metro region, businesses that export goods have mirrored the state’s recent track record. In 2011, the St. Louis area exported goods totaling $12.3 billion, up $1.1 billion or 9.5 percent from 2010, according to the most recent data from the International Trade Administration, a bureau of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The St. Louis Business Journal checked in with several local companies that currently export. Asia was repeatedly named as a promising frontier for exports, China being mentioned the most. Indeed, last year, China became the biggest market for all exports from the St. Louis area, surpassing Canada and Mexico, according to the International Trade Administration. Exports to China from St. Louis totaled $1.9 billion last year.

The Boeing Co.

For Boeing’s Defense, Space and Security segment, based in Hazelwood, international growth is one of the “five strategic objectives for our business and has a goal to grow international sales to 25-30 percent of total revenue by 2013,” said Dennis Muilenberg, president and CEO of Defense, Space and Security, in a statement. Since 2005, international sales for its Defense, Space and Security segment have grown from just more than 7 percent of total revenue to nearly 24 percent of the business segment’s nearly $32 billion in revenue last year, said Boeing spokeswoman Peggy Mason.

Boeing’s defense unit currently exports to more than 35 countries. A relatively new market for the defense company is Brazil where Boeing is “currently in a competition with the F/A-18 Super Hornet,” Mason said. For growth in exports, Boeing continues to target the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia, Mason said.

Ungerboeck Software International

At O’Fallon, Mo.-based Ungerboeck Software International, exports account for more than 50 percent of the company’s total revenue, according to CEO Krister Ungerboeck. The privately held company makes business management software used at sports venues and conventions. Currently, the company exports software to 50 countries on every continent, except Antarctica.

One of the benefits of exporting is the financial buffer it affords during shaky economic times at home — for example, the period following the 9/11 attacks.

“We grew the year after Sept. 11 because of the international aspect of our business. It usually takes six to 12 months for a crisis (in the U.S.) to impact overseas,” Ungerboeck said. “So (exports) are great for keeping the business growing, healthy and strong.”

Stereotaxis Inc.

At St. Louis-based Stereotaxis, the company has struggled to make a profit since entering the commercial market several years ago with its high-tech medical devices, namely computer-controlled robotic systems used by heart surgeons. The company is optimistic, however, about turning a profit in 2013, with exports playing a key role.

“We are very excited about the export market and its potential for us,” said Frank Cheng, senior vice president, marketing and business development for Stereotaxis.

Exports currently account for 40 percent of the company’s total annual sales ($42 million last year). Stereotaxis began exporting seven years ago to countries in Western Europe. Recently, the company has targeted emerging markets in Asia and Eastern Europe, Cheng said. In 2013, Stereotaxis plans to begin exporting to Japan the third largest market for the medical device industry.

Hunter Engineering Co.

For Bridgeton-based Hunter Engineering Co., exports have been “one of the fastest growing parts of our business over the past 10 years,” said Beau Brauer, vice president of marketing for the family-owned business.

The company exports to more than 100 countries worldwide and its “top exports” are high-tech wheel-alignment systems and wheel balancers, Brauer said. The company’s annual sales from exports exceeds $100 million, with some of those sales coming from its wholly owned subsidiaries in Canada, Germany and China. As for emerging markets that hold promise for Hunter’s exports, Brauer said, “Right now, we have wonderful growth in markets like India, China, Russia and Brazil.

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