Hill Electric Supply Co. President Scott Schwartz (left) pauses during a tour of his firm’s Glens Falls warehouse to discuss his success in exporting overseas with U.S. Rep. Bill Owens (right). Owens said he intends to hold a roundtable workshop on exporting to boost revenue for small businesses in the region. Participating in the tour and discussion was Lori Milford (rear), Hill Electric’s Director of International Sales.
After talking recently with a local businessman who is successfully marketing American-made products overseas, U.S. Rep. Bill Owens has pledged to sponsor a workshop where area entrepreneurs can learn how to develop foreign trade.
Scott Schwartz, president of Hill Electric Supply Co. took time out of his workday April 23 to describe to Owens how his company has developed a business marketing not only electrical components and fixtures but a wide range of other products to clients in foreign countries.
Hill Electric is known in Glens Falls as an electrical fixture and component supply source for electricians and contractors, but through its overseas trade via the internet, Hill Electric sells a wide variety of goods — from specialized industrial electrical components to toilets, turnstile parts, weed-whackers and tires.
Schwartz told Owens during a tour of his business on Broad St. that his enterprise, founded in 1948, launched a mail-order trade in the 1970s. Then in 1997, the firm started marketing its thousands of products over the Internet. About two years later, overseas contractors began seeking the products in their inventory.
Hill Electric’s business expanded further, when they were recognized as a trusted source providing timely service, Schwartz said. Increasingly, foreign firms asked for a wide variety of goods other than electric supplies, and Hill Electric employees began marketing goods manufactured or sold be other enterprises, said Lori Milford, Director of International Sales at Hill Electric. She and Schwartz noted that many businesses shy away from exporting because processing overseas orders can involve substantial paperwork and understanding of customs laws and procedures.
Schwartz said that attentive customer service including fast, efficient response, quick shipping is what has built his overseas trade to about $2 million annually, with shipments to 50 countries in the last three years.
A lot of the goods ordered get shipped to Canada, Asia, Africa and Europe, Schwartz said. Recently, Hill Electric has shipped a large amount of supplies to a construction company building a sewage treatment plant for a hospital in Bermuda, he added.
“Companies my size may not realize where their exporting opportunities are,” he said.
Schwartz said that he is interested in becoming more familiar with all the products manufactured in the Glens Falls region so he can have them readily available to ship to his foreign customers.
Owens responded that he would explore establishing a database or directory of goods made in upstate New York for the use of Schwartz and other area exporters.
Also, Owens said he’d be setting up a “roundtable” seminar within several months for businesses seeking to pursue or expand their foreign trade. Schwartz offered to instruct at the event, presenting tips on successful overseas trade for small businesses. Owens said he might be inviting representatives of freight companies and customs brokers to offer their tips as well.
“I see this roundtable as an informal get-together of people interested — or should be interested — in exporting,” he said.