Southeastern Trade Adjustment Assistance Center receives $1.3 million in federal funds

Funding supports international competitiveness.

Darren Green photo.

Darren Green, owner of The Old Wood Co., in Asheville, North, Carolina, sought SETAAC’s assistance to help his company better compete with low-cost foreign imports. (Photo credit: Travis Bell)

The U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) has awarded $13.3 million in federal funds to support 11 Trade Adjustment Assistance Centers (TAACs), including the Southeastern Trade Adjustment Assistance Center (SETAAC) at Georgia Tech, which will receive $1.3 million.

 

TAACs work to support a wide range of technical, planning, and business recovery projects that help companies and the communities that depend on them adapt to international competition and diversify their economies.

 

“The Trump administration is working every day to help America’s manufacturers, their workers, and their communities,” U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said in a statement. “This funding is one element of a government-wide effort to restore American jobs and strengthen U.S. manufacturing.”

Old Wood Co. workers

Employees of The Old Wood Co. in Asheville, North Carolina work on building a table. (Photo Credit: Travis Bell)

 

The announced grants are for the second year of a funding cycle that runs from 2016 to 2021.

 

SETAAC, a program of the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2), was established in 1974. In addition to serving Georgia, SETAAC works with companies in Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

 

SETAAC provides up to $75,000 of matching funds for third-party consultants to help guide a client’s economic recovery. Eligible manufacturing firms contribute a matching share to create and implement their respective recovery plan.

 

In Fiscal Year 2017, SETAAC worked with 45 clients, including Darren Green of The Old Wood Co. in Asheville, North Carolina, and helped those firms generate more than $9.7 million in sales, and help save or create 143 jobs.

SETAAC Helps Brunswick Manufacturer Improve Marketing and Customer Relations

Dave Erickson, president and CEO of Haven Manufacturing, says the metal tube processing machines that his company makes is ubiquitous to manufacturers in a number of industries – automotive, furniture, construction and exercise equipment, to name a few. However, the widespread need for Haven’s products put the Brunswick, Ga. manufacturer’s customers squarely in the bull’s eye for foreign competitors.

“If you start thinking about everything you’ve seen with tubes in it – automotive airbags and seat frames, indoor and outdoor furniture, construction equipment and scaffolding, bicycles and scooters – you realize how expansive it is,” Erickson explained. “There’s really quite a variety to our customer base. And even though we were not directly affected by foreign trade, many of our customers were and still are.”

Haven manufactures tube processing machines, including the dual-blade shear cutoff, supported shear cutoff, secondary finishing machines and a new flying shear tube cutting machine that delivers high-quality, dimple-free cuts for tube forming mills. The company was founded in 1956 in New Haven, Mich., and moved to coastal Georgia in 1971, where it currently employs 29 people.

To address the issue of foreign competition, Erickson applied for support from the Southeastern Trade Adjustment Assistance Center (SETAAC), a program based at Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute that helps manufacturers develop and implement turn-around strategies to better compete with imports. SETAAC director Marla Gorges conducted an initial review of Haven and helped the company prepare an application for the U.S. Department of Commerce. Once the company was approved for funding, she developed an adjustment plan that detailed projects to receive funding support, including assistance in marketing and sales, web site development and customer relationship management.

“Our number one challenge was figuring out what to do and what would be the biggest bang for our buck,” recalled Erickson. “One of the first things we thought of was building up our brand. We used a creative team in Atlanta to develop a new eye-catching, yet simple, logo. That started the whole brand imaging concept, from logo to web site to search engine optimization.”

Haven has also increased the effectiveness of its web site, taking into account the company’s sales and conversion rates, lead generation, landing page effectiveness and the amount of time customers spend on the site. According to Erickson, this is a major improvement over Haven’s prior web site, which was not designed to be optimized for searching.

“Being in a global market – and Haven is very involved in international trade – it is very important to have exposure. If you don’t have the exposure, you don’t get the inquiries,” he said. “Our international inquiries and even our domestic opportunities have increased substantially over the last couple of years.”

Last year Haven formed a strategic alliance with SOCO Machinery Co., Ltd. of Taiwan to sell and service each company’s respective lines of tube cutting equipment. Erickson said the partnership provides Haven an outstanding opportunity to grow within the Asian markets, while SOCO’s growth in the U.S. market is enhanced through Haven’s broad market knowledge and reputation. Haven will have exclusive U.S. rights to sell SOCO’s line of automated tube saws, solid bar saws and tube and bar machining centers, while SOCO will represent Haven in China and Southeast Asia for its line of dual-blade and supported shear tube cutting machines.

To increase sales, the SETAAC plan also focused on launching a new prototype, updating factory sales support communications and designing a new product process for end-finishing equipment.

“In general, this has opened us up to new companies and industries that we had not worked with before. That alone says that our customer base is expanding,” Erickson said.

Firms that are accepted into the SETAAC program pay for 25 percent of the initial diagnostic visit and adjustment plan. The Department of Commerce generally pays half of the cost of project implementation for activities to benefit the company. Private sector consultants submit quotes for implementing the identified projects and the company chooses which consultant to hire to execute the outlined changes.

“With Marla’s guidance and input, we were approved for the SETAAC funding, something we wouldn’t have been able to do without her,” Erickson said. “This has been a great experience and I would recommend Georgia Tech to anyone.”

About the Southeastern Trade Adjustment Assistance Center:

The Southeastern Trade Adjustment Assistance Center (SETAAC), based at Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute in Atlanta, helps manufacturers develop and implement turn-around strategies to compete better with imports. Last year, SETAAC helped more than 30 companies in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. On average, these companies received $42,000 in matching funds. In the last three years, SETAAC’s clients have increased sales by 26 percent and improved productivity by 28 percent. Over the past five years, 49 SETAAC clients reported sales increases of more than $39 million and productivity improvements of more than 43 percent.

About the Enterprise Innovation Institute:

The Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute helps companies, entrepreneurs, economic developers and communities improve their competitiveness through the application of science, technology and innovation. It is one of the most comprehensive university-based programs of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization and economic development in the nation.

Research News & Publications Office

Enterprise Innovation Institute

Georgia Institute of Technology

75 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 314

Atlanta, Georgia 30308 USA

Media Relations Contact: John Toon (404-894-6986); E-mail (ude.hcetag.etavonninull@noot.nhoj).

Writer: Nancy Fullbright

North Carolina Garment Manufacturer Beats the Odds with Georgia Tech Assistance

Mack and Mack, a Greensboro, N.C.-based women’s apparel manufacturer, is something of an anomaly. It is a U.S. cut-and-sew manufacturer in a country where nearly 91 percent of the 20.8 billion garments purchased in 2006 were imported. It has increased employment in an industry where employment decreased from 585,700 in 1998 to 204,800 in 2007. And it has managed to do all of this while the U.S. trade deficit soared to $62.2 billion in July 2008.

“We design, cut and sew better women’s wear for distribution to some 65 specialty boutiques throughout the United States. Our entire operation – administration, design, production, shipping, receiving and a retail outlet – is housed in a single, 7,300-square-foot building in downtown Greensboro,” explained John Davis, co-owner (with his wife Robin) of Mack and Mack. “The textile and apparel industry, once prominent elements of our local economy, has moved offshore to take advantage of huge cost savings. We have established a niche market, but until we become a household name we will always work on narrow margins. And that is where the SETAAC program has been a great help.”

The Southeastern Trade Adjustment Assistance Center (SETAAC), based at Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute in Atlanta, helps manufacturers develop and implement turn-around strategies to better compete with imports. SETAAC project manager Mark Hannah conducted an initial review of Mack and Mack and helped the company prepare an application for the U.S. Department of Commerce. Once the company was approved for funding, Hannah developed an adjustment plan that detailed projects to receive funding support, including assistance in marketing and sales, new product development and equipment training.

Firms that are accepted into the SETAAC program pay for 25 percent of the diagnostic visit and report. The Department of Commerce generally pays half of the cost of project implementation for activities to benefit the company. Private sector consultants submit quotes for implementing the identified projects and the company chooses which consultant to hire to execute the outlined changes.

“With SETAAC defraying most of the cost, we were able to have one of our newly-hired designers trained on our pattern digitizing equipment, which would have cost us around $4,000,” Davis said. “Normally, we would have depended on the limited in-house experience available, along with our outdated help manuals. Instead, we were able to have a trainer spend a week at our facility with our designer, giving her invaluable insight into the latest techniques.”

Mack and Mack’s equipment digitizes garment patterns and prints them on perforated paper; sizes can automatically be scaled in the computer. According to Davis, it is not feasible to send the patterns to overseas factories for production because of their strict quality control.

“Admittedly, our business model is unusual. We have a very attractive boutique in the front of our facility and, once you get further in, there are glass doors through which you can see people at sewing machines making the clothes that are on the sales floor,” he said. “Almost all the clothes hanging in the store are made in black – because that’s a color we know we can always sell – and you can try them on. You choose the style and color, and in two weeks you can pick up the clothes that have been made specifically for you. Making one outfit at a time is one of our best selling points and, at the same time, one of the things that is most challenging in terms of growth.”

SETAAC has also helped Mack and Mack upgrade its Web site, a key component of the company’s marketing strategy. Davis notes that having the Web site configured for e-commerce has allowed Mack and Mack to increase its sales and diversify its revenue sources. In fact, the company exceeded $1 million in sales last year for the first time since 2003 and increased its workforce from 12 to 17 during the same time period.

“It’s partly natural business growth, but I do feel the growth was abetted greatly by having the assistance provided by the program,” Davis said. “We have created three jobs – two in production and one in administration – and retained all of the jobs we already had. Having the additional help has allowed my wife and me to focus on the bigger picture.”

Mack and Mack was founded in 1995 by Robin Mack Davis who started out cutting garments on a ping pong table in her parents’ basement. After five years, the firm relocated to its current location in the historic district of downtown Greensboro. The firm has grown over the years, and now sells its original designs in 65 upscale boutique clothing stores nationwide. According to Davis, SETAAC’s assistance will help the small manufacturer continue to grow and compete in a global economy.

“I can think of few other government programs for small businesses where the intended benefits are so well-targeted and so effective,” he said.

About the Southeastern Trade Adjustment Assistance Center:
The Southeastern Trade Adjustment Assistance Center (SETAAC), based at Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute in Atlanta, helps manufacturers develop and implement turn-around strategies to compete better with imports. Last year, SETAAC helped more than 30 companies in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. On average, these companies received $42,000 in matching funds. In the last three years, SETAAC’s clients have increased sales by 26 percent and improved productivity by 28 percent.

About the Enterprise Innovation Institute:
The Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute helps companies, entrepreneurs, economic developers and communities improve their competitiveness through the application of science, technology and innovation. It is one of the most comprehensive university-based programs of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization and economic development in the nation.

Research News & Publications Office
Enterprise Innovation Institute
Georgia Institute of Technology
75 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 314
Atlanta, Georgia 30308 USA

Media Relations Contact: John Toon (404-894-6986); E-mail (ude.hcetag.etavonninull@noot.nhoj).

Writer: Nancy Fullbright

Florida Shutter Manufacturer Diversifies, Rebounds from Import Competition

John Saunders, president of American Louvered Products, knows the exact date his business began to take a hit from import competition. It was Jan. 1, 1994, the date the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect. NAFTA is an agreement that eliminated the majority of tariffs on products traded among the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

“When NAFTA hit, a lot of companies began buying products out of Mexico. And we couldn’t even touch their prices,” he recalled. “Obviously, our business dropped way off. Around that time we engaged with the Southeastern Trade Adjustment Assistance Center (SETAAC) to improve our productivity so we could compete with that market.”

SETAAC, based at Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute in Atlanta, helps manufacturers develop and implement turn-around strategies to better compete with imports. American Louvered Products started out in Tampa, Fla., in 1958 as a manufacturer of bi-fold louver doors for the housing market, and it began manufacturing wooden and vinyl plantation shutters in 1995 to diversify its product line.

“At that time, we decided to completely stop manufacturing louvered doors. Not only were the Mexicans building wooden louvered doors, but masonite – an engineered product – began to be used in the industry. The market for wooden louvered doors went completely down the drain,” Saunders said.

Former SETAAC project manager David Bridges conducted an initial review of American Louvered Products and helped the company prepare an application for the U.S. Department of Commerce. Once the company was approved for funding, Bridges developed an adjustment plan that included projects to receive funding support. Typically, companies assisted by the SETAAC program receive assistance in marketing consulting, manufacturing improvements, information systems improvements, employee training and maintenance and quality systems improvements.

Firms that are accepted into the SETAAC program pay for 25 percent of the diagnostic visit and report. The Department of Commerce generally pays half of the cost of project implementation for activities to benefit the company. Private sector consultants submit quotes for implementing the identified projects and are chosen by the company to execute the outlined changes.

American Louvered Products decided to pursue several projects with SETAAC funding, including a plant layout, equipment design, process development and improvement, improved computer information system and Web site design and implementation. Mark Hannah, SETAAC project manager, assisted the company during this phase of the project, which involved development of new manufacturing equipment designed to give the company a competitive edge.

“When we came into the plantation shutter industry, all of the equipment was lightweight. We bought a state-of-the-art piece of equipment, but we were constantly having downtime problems with it and it always needed tweaking and adjusting,” said Saunders. “With the SETAAC funding, we had a company develop an incredible piece of equipment for us that helped automate the manufacturing. There’s nothing in the industry that will even touch it.”

Since the manufacture of shutters is quite labor intensive and labor is where imports have an edge, use of the automated equipment gave American Louvered a tremendous competitive advantage, according to Saunders. He notes that the company – which increased production by 50 percent with the new piece of equipment – now has a handle on foreign competition in this area, as well as a competitive advantage with lead times.

“You have to diversify to compete with foreign imports because they manage to do a very good job with quality and pricing,” Saunders noted. “As automated as we get, stuff still has to be inspected and checked. We’re trying to shorten lead times to the point that foreign producers just can’t compete.”

Saunders is also diversifying with the startup of a sister company called Shutters and Millwork Industries, a finishing division that frames, stains and paints shutters made by American Louvered Products. With unfinished and primed shutters, the company was penetrating approximately 30 percent of the market. With the addition of the new startup, Saunders expects to be able to sell to 100 percent of the market.

Another area where SETAAC’s assistance proved to be helpful was in the design and implementation of a Web site and marketing materials, especially the development of a Web-enabled order placement system. Prior to developing the system, orders were submitted on paper, which then took hours to enter into the company’s computer system. Customers can now enter order entries online and design their own custom shutters with a computer-aided design software system.

“It’s one thing to be able to change with the market when you’re making the money, but it’s hard to keep up with changes when you don’t have the finances,” Saunders said. “SETAAC’s help was extremely valuable in helping us implement these things because they were all necessary for us to do.”

About the Southeastern Trade Adjustment Assistance Center:
The Southeastern Trade Adjustment Assistance Center (SETAAC), based at Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute in Atlanta, helps manufacturers develop and implement turn-around strategies to compete better with imports. Last year, SETAAC helped more than 30 companies in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. On average, these companies received $42,000 in matching funds. In the last three years, SETAAC’s clients have increased sales by 26 percent and improved productivity by 28 percent.

About Enterprise Innovation Institute:
The Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute helps companies, entrepreneurs, economic developers and communities improve their competitiveness through the application of science, technology and innovation. It is one of the most comprehensive university-based programs of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization and economic development in the nation.

Research News & Publications Office
Enterprise Innovation Institute
Georgia Institute of Technology
75 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 314
Atlanta, Georgia 30308 USA

Media Relations Contact: John Toon (404-894-6986); E-mail (ude.hcetag.etavonninull@noot.nhoj).

Writer: Nancy Fullbright

Injection Molding Company Reduces Costs and Lead Time with SETAAC Assistance

A Criterion employee examines an acrylic dome manufactured for the security camera industry.

In 2005, Criterion Technology was facing a substantial downturn in revenue due to import competition. It was then that this manufacturer of acrylic domes for the security camera industry turned to the Southeastern Trade Adjustment Assistance Center (SETAAC) for assistance. Based at Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute in Atlanta, the Center helps manufacturers develop and implement turn-around strategies to better compete with imports.

“From about 1997 until 2001, we were strictly a thermo-forming operation. Thermo-forming is where you heat sheets of acrylic and pull a vacuum on them, causing them to naturally form a hemisphere,” explained Myra Boyt, vice president of operations for Criterion, based in Thomaston, Ga. “When the bulk of the imports started coming in, injection molding tools were just starting to hit the market and we began transitioning to injection molding.”

Criterion added its first injection molding machine in 2001, and according to Boyt, added another three machines almost immediately. Product is less expensive to make via an injection molder, and it also produces less scrap compared to thermo-forming. Criterion’s entire product line is comprised of domes for security cameras ranging in size from four to 20 inches in diameter. The domes, which include high-end optics, are used primarily in department stores, casinos, hotels, post offices and schools.

“As long as we were thermo-forming, I don’t recall seeing a competitor in the market. But when the technology became available to injection mold, it was like everyone jumped on the bandwagon,” remembered Boyt. “By the end of 2005, we had experienced a 20 percent decrease in sales related to imports. At our local Existing Industry Roundtable in Thomaston, Susan Hall with Woodbury Box told us about SETAAC and how successful she had been with it. That’s when the call went out.”

Mark Hannah, a SETAAC project manager, conducted an initial review of Criterion and helped the company prepare an application for the U.S. Department of Commerce. Once the company was approved for funding, he developed an adjustment plan that included projects to receive funding support. Hannah and Marla Gorges, director of SETAAC, answered questions, provided advice and handled the paperwork flow.

“When we perform a diagnostic review of the company, we are looking for areas that can help the company improve. We develop a list of strategic projects that will have the biggest impact on the firm,” Hannah said. “Once the funding is approved, we receive competitive bids on the projects and the work can begin.”

Typically, companies that are involved in the SETAAC program receive assistance in marketing consulting, manufacturing improvements, information systems improvements, employee training and maintenance and quality systems improvements. Over the past two years, SETAAC has helped Criterion in three areas: the installation of a new ultraviolet (UV) hard coating machine, training in computer-aided design (CAD) and research in a sunlight testing system.

“When our domes are inspected, it’s very subjective. Each operator looks at the dome and tries to determine if a scratch or polycarbonate speck is going to show up on a camera once it’s installed,” Boyt explained. “We did some work with the optics lab at the University of Alabama-Huntsville to build a sunlight test system. Based on the information we received from them, we will eventually develop a sunlight test system where a laser shoots through the dome. Based on a computer program and criteria we select, the dome will either pass or fail. We’re hoping to have that up and running by second quarter 2008.”

Boyt noted that the CAD training has been especially beneficial for Criterion. Before the company had in-house capabilities, the flange rings (part of the injection mold tool that makes the outside flange of dome unique for each customer) had to be outsourced. By designing and producing its own flange rings, Criterion can save approximately a third of its costs in this area, as well as reducing lead time by half. According to Boyt, those time and cost savings are then passed on to Criterion’s customers.

The third project funded by SETAAC – the design, development, installation and startup of a second UV hard coat machine – has also proven valuable to Criterion’s bottom line. When applied to polycarbonate domes, the UV hard coating increases the domes’ scratch and UV resistance. Boyt says that this added process has opened new markets for the polycarbonate domes and has reversed Criterion’s downward trend in sales.

“Most of our rebound in sales can be attributed to hard coat. Both of our hard coat machines run two 12-hour shifts, three days a week, for a total of 72 hours a week,” she said. “We could not keep up with production demands if it weren’t for that second machine.”

Firms that are accepted into the SETAAC program pay for 25 percent of the diagnostic visit and report. The Department of Commerce generally pays half of the cost of project implementation for activities to benefit the company. Private sector consultants submit quotes for implementing the identified projects and are chosen by the company to execute the outlined changes.

Last year, SETAAC helped more than 30 companies in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. On average, these companies received $42,000 in matching funds. In the last three years, SETAAC’s clients have increased sales by 26 percent and improved productivity by 28 percent.

“You start thinking ‘red tape’ the minute you hear government funding, but for the amount of good we’ve gotten out of it, there was very little paperwork involved,” Boyt said. “It’s also hard for companies to open their financials for the world to see. But once you get past that initial fear factor and demonstrate how you’re going to spend the money, it was very easy. I would most definitely recommend SETAAC to other companies.”

About Enterprise Innovation Institute:
The Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute helps companies, entrepreneurs, economic developers and communities improve their competitiveness through the application of science, technology and innovation. It is one of the most comprehensive university-based programs of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization and economic development in the nation.

Research News & Publications Office
Enterprise Innovation Institute
Georgia Institute of Technology
75 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 314
Atlanta, Georgia 30308 USA

Media Relations Contact: John Toon (404-894-6986); E-mail (ude.hcetag.etavonninull@noot.nhoj).

Writer: Nancy Fullbright

Machine Tool Builder Rallies Back from Import Competition

Todd Herzog, founder of Accu-Router, shows SETAAC Director Marla Gorges some of the machine parts inside a CNC router.

When Todd Herzog founded Accu-Router in 1992, his single biggest market was manufacturers of upholstered furniture. The Morrison, Tenn.-based company assembles high performance computer numerical control (CNC) routing systems and premium high-speed spindles used to cut materials for industries as varied as upholstered furniture, power boating, aerospace, automotive plastics machining and office furniture.

But between 1994 and 2001, the Chinese furniture industry increased exports by a staggering 335 percent, replacing Italy as the world’s largest furniture exporting country. In 2001, China’s furniture industry reported $2.8 billion in exports, 50,000 manufacturers and 50 million workers. Between 2000 and 2003, the value of domestically produced furniture declined by more than $5 billion.

“Even dependable names in upholstered furniture aren’t as prosperous as they were. If you’re not importing from China or Vietnam, you better have your costs in line with those who are, or you’re going to get beaten up,” Herzog warned. “Accu-Router went through a difficult financial period between 2002 and 2005, and we documented substantial losses in business as a result of deep price cutting from Japanese and Chinese competitors.”

That’s when Herzog learned about the Southeastern Trade Adjustment Assistance Center (SETAAC), based at Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute in Atlanta. Serving the eight-state region of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee, SETAAC helps manufacturers develop and implement turn-around strategies to better compete with imports.

Marla Gorges, director of SETAAC, conducted an initial review of Accu-Router and helped the company prepare an application for the U.S. Department of Commerce. Once the company was accepted for the first level of funding, SETAAC Project Manager Mark Hannah developed an adjustment plan that included projects to receive funding support. He and Gorges also answered questions, provided advice and handled the paperwork flow.

“In the case of Accu-Router, we checked the plan for soundness and helped Todd push his agenda through,” she recalled. “Todd really knew marketing-wise what he wanted to do – he knew he had to diversify.”

Accu-Router has now realigned its target markets to focus on the boating industry and the remanufacturing market. Boat manufacturing does not have the foreign competition that the furniture industry does, and no one else in the routing business is focusing on remanufactured machines, according to Herzog.

“Remanufacturing for us has created a whole new market – either for existing customers or for customers who want to reach our product but don’t have the money to reach all the way to a new product,” he noted. “We can tell a customer that they can buy a machine and as we develop new technology, we can add that or we’ll take it back in a trade. We’ll have a business relationship the whole way rather than them just buying a machine, and we like that.”

Herzog said that it makes sense to focus on the boating industry due to the sheer number of manufacturers. According to the National Marine Manufacturing Association, there are 440 boating-related manufacturers in the United States. Accu-Router, which has a total of 17 employees, has sales representatives designated specifically for the boating industry.

Typically, companies that are involved in the SETAAC program receive assistance in marketing consulting, manufacturing improvements, information systems improvements, employee training and maintenance and quality systems improvements. Over the past two years, SETAAC has helped Accu-Router revamp its marketing materials, both in print and online.

“We have replaced and added to our printed sales literature, created new national ads, updated and expanded our company Web site and participated in national trade shows. We have a new spindle catalog that did not exist before, and we also developed video-on-demand for our Web site – a major company strength from a competitive point of view,” Herzog said. “We could not have tackled this large an undertaking on our own.”

Herzog also said that the arsenal of new marketing services is helping Accu-Router to rebound, noting that the Web site is generating meaningful new prospect leads. The company’s number of inquiries has dramatically increased over the past four months compared to prior sales periods.

“We’ve been able to magnify everything we’ve done through this grant program, and to survive you have to beat everyone else to the customer,” Herzog remarked. “Those who can’t play that progressively are going to be left by the wayside. There’s no room for mediocrity and there’s no room for non-competitiveness.”

Firms that are accepted into the SETAAC program pay for 25 percent of the diagnostic visit and report. The government generally pays half of the cost of project implementation for activities to benefit the company. Private sector consultants submit quotes for implementing the identified projects and are chosen by the company to execute the outlined changes.

Last year, SETAAC helped more than 30 companies. On average, these companies received $42,000 in matching funds. In the last three years, SETAAC’s overall client base has increased sales by 26 percent and improved productivity by 28 percent.

About the Enterprise Innovation Institute:
The Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute helps companies, entrepreneurs, economic developers and communities improve their competitiveness through the application of science, technology and innovation. It is one of the most comprehensive university-based programs of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization and economic development in the nation.

Research News & Publications Office
Enterprise Innovation Institute
Georgia Institute of Technology
75 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 314
Atlanta, Georgia 30308 USA

Media Relations Contact: John Toon (404-894-6986); E-mail (ude.hcetag.etavonninull@noot.nhoj).

Writer: Nancy Fullbright

Orthotics Company Regaining Its Competitive Edge

In 1992, Karen Bonn left behind a nursing career to start a company that manufactures restorative splints and braces in Brandenburg, Ky. She began Restorative Medical in her basement and funded the business with her husband’s retirement savings and a second mortgage on her home.

“While working as a director of nursing in a long-term care facility, I was disheartened at the limited and inappropriate selection of orthotics available for restorative type patients,” she recalled. “While most of the medical community still thought these types of disabilities were inevitable and not able to be corrected, I decided to design my own braces.”

Orthotics are custom-made appliances that stabilize and protect fragile joints and can also keep a joint properly aligned to improve functioning. The splints and braces that Restorative Medical manufactures treat patients who, due to illness or injury, are unable to relax their muscles. Although the organelles in the muscle tissue are still active, the relaxation message is not received from the brain and the body ends up in a hyper extensive mode, twisted and deformed.

As president and CEO of the eight-employee company, Bonn said that she often relied on word of mouth to market the company’s products. Such success can be short-lived when competing in the global marketplace.

“We’re trying to figure out how to make an impact on the world, and we struggle,” she admitted. “Our biggest competitor, a firm in Costa Rica, cut its price to the absolute bottom, so we had to lower our price and fight very hard to stay in business.”

To address some of her concerns, Bonn began working with specialists from the Southeastern Trade Adjustment Assistance Center (SETAAC), based at Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute in Atlanta. Serving the eight-state region of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee, SETAAC helps manufacturers develop and implement turn-around strategies to better compete with imports.

“If a company’s sales and employment are down as a result of imports, it probably qualifies for the program,” said project manager Mark Hannah. “We conducted an initial review of Restorative Medical, and helped them prepare an application for the U.S. Department of Commerce. Once they were approved for the first level of funding, we developed a diagnostic and adjustment plan in order to address issues to help the firm improve its competitive position.”

Firms that are accepted into the SETAAC program pay for 25 percent of the diagnostic visit and report. The government generally pays half of the cost of project implementation for activities to benefit the company. Following the diagnostic and adjustment plan, Hannah had private sector consultants submit quotes for implementing the identified projects. Bonn then selected the consultant and together they implemented the changes.

Typically, companies that are involved in the SETAAC program receive assistance in marketing consulting, manufacturing improvements, information systems improvements, employee training and maintenance and quality systems improvements. SETAAC helped Restorative Medical with developing a DVD that could be used for marketing purposes and for training nursing home and health care personnel.

“The DVD will be an awesome thing for the future of our company and our marketing efforts,” noted Bonn. “The ultimate goal is to send the DVD for training purposes instead of having to get on a plane to explain the products to someone.”

Another area in which Restorative Medical received assistance was the patent of a new product, Hyper Hands. This brace helps to treat typical conditions like neurological tone, arthritis and ulnar drift, in which the fingers all bend toward one side of the hand. Bonn said the assistance she received from SETAAC was critical.

“We could not have afforded to submit a patent for a new product without the assistance of SETAAC,” she said. “Our representative was wonderful to keep in touch, aware of deadlines and very organized.”

Bonn said she expects additional jobs to be created in the future, once sales have taken off from the company’s marketing efforts. Currently, she is applying for the next phase of funding available through the SETAAC program.

Last year, SETAAC helped more than 30 companies. On average, these companies received $42,000 in matching funds. In the last three years, SETAAC’s overall client base has increased sales by 26 percent and improved productivity by 28 percent.

About the Enterprise Innovation Institute:
The Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute helps companies, entrepreneurs, economic developers and communities improve their competitiveness through the application of science, technology and innovation. It is one of the most comprehensive university-based programs of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization and economic development in the nation.

Research News & Publications Office
Enterprise Innovation Institute
Georgia Institute of Technology
75 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 314
Atlanta, Georgia 30308 USA

Media Relations Contact: John Toon (404-894-6986); E-mail (ude.hcetag.etavonninull@noot.nhoj).
Writer: Nancy Fullbright