Gary Miller owns a small startup company where employees use special equipment to turn waste water into renewable energy.
Clear Cove Systems has slowly gained more customers during the past three years, but now Miller wants new clients in Spain, Germany and France. Miller has spent months filing expensive paperwork to patent his products in Europe. He went to the Burgundy Basin Inn on Thursday afternoon hoping New York state would help pay those costs.
The state has set aside $35 million so businesses such as Clear Cove can score grants or loans. Labeled the Global NY Fund, the money goes toward helping a company get overseas customers. The logic is: if companies have more customers, they'll have more orders to fill.
"The faster you grow, the more units you're going to sell," Miller said. "It creates jobs in New York."
Any New York business or non-profit with fewer than 500 employees can apply for Global NY money. The program is two weeks old so very few people know about it. Hoping to drum up applicants, one of the program's top organizers is touring the state and explaining the program.
Erin Cole, senior vice president for Global NY, spent Thursday talking to almost 75 business professionals in Pittsford. She said the $35 million is split into two pots — a loans bucket with $3 million a year and a grants bucket that'll have $2 million.
For grants, a company can get $10,000 to $25,000. The company must submit a detailed spending budget, complete a U.S. Chamber of Commerce export questionnaire and contribute half the money for their specific international efforts. Non-profits can get $10,000 to $50,000 in grants as long as they contribute 40 percent of the money for their effort.
Both for-profit and non-profit organizations can apply for up to $500,000 in loans. Global NY loan dollars will work basically like a security deposit when a company asks a bank for a larger loan.
Cole told the Pittsford crowd that the grant money can go toward travel to trade shows, a marketing campaign overseas, product adaptation or getting market certifications.
"Our main mission in life is to help you export," she said.
Companies and non-profits must pay for their global expansion up front and get reimbursed. Companies can get two grants per state fiscal year or one loan per fiscal year.
After hearing the specifics, Miller from Clear Cove said Cole's presentation was worth his time.
"I wasn't aware of the grants or the low interest loans," he said. "I think it's good that the state is trying to help."
Global NY is the re-branding of Empire State Development's International Division. Companies such as Liberty Pumps of Bergen, Classic Rugs Collection of New York City and Aircraft Lighting of Babylon have already benefited from state funds geared toward global expansion. Cole said no company has officially applied for money yet, but there's enough staff available to evaluate applications once they start to flow in.
Cole said Cuomo started what would become Global NY after seeing businesses struggle during the 2008 recession. It's unclear if the country will have another economic downturn, so having customers across the globe will help mitigate a dramatic dip in sales, Cole said.
The main goal for these dollars is to create jobs, Cole said, but a secondary goal is to get small- and mid-sized upstate companies to sell overseas. California and Texas are leading the country in this area, Cole said, but "New York is consistently third."
The Finger Lakes region is part of the reason why New York is No. 3.
The region exported $7.53 billion worth of business in 2014, according to the latest data that Greater Rochester Enterprise pulls from the Brookings Institution. The data show the Rochester area as one of the top exporting regions, second only to New York City. Leading this region's activity was $1.2 billion in machinery manufacturing, followed by $951 million in chemicals and $887 million in computer and electronics exports.
GRE hopes even more export activity happens later this year. The organization is hosting its Upstate New York Trade Conference on June 10, an event where local businesses can get more advice on how to gain international customers.
Just before leaving the Pittsford meeting, Cole told the audience that Empire State Development has hired a Finger Lakes-dedicated point person for Global NY, Carolyn Baker-Scott.
Baker-Scott, Cole said, will coach companies in the nine-county region through submitting a perfect application so local businesses can increase sales.
"The idea is to keep the company here and have them grow here," she said.
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