Kentucky Is a Global Force in Exports
BAF in Lexington, KY
Carey Smith is the owner of BAF (Big Ass Fans), which is a company that designs and manufactures high volume/low speed ceiling and vertical fans designed to improve facility and worker comfort in large commercial, industrial, agricultural and institutional buildings.
Kentucky manufacturers are expanding their global reach at the same time foreign-owned companies are increasing investment in the Bluegrass State. Kentucky exports are approaching $20 billion annually, and Kentucky ranks ninth nationally in exports per capita. Goods sold to other countries support 49,000 direct jobs; major markets are Canada, Mexico, Western Europe, China, Japan, Brazil, Taiwan and Singapore.
Primary exports are transportation equipment, chemicals, machinery, and computer and electronics products, a list that belies the diversity of Kentucky’s products and their destinations.
Kentucky Companies, Exports Support Local Economy
BFW Inc. in Louisville sells its fiber-optic headlight systems to hospitals and physicians around the world, and exports now make up about 25 percent of the company’s gross sales, says Lynn Cooper, president.
The company is introducing new lamp technology that uses less energy, but extends the device’s life tenfold, from 1,000 hours to 10,000 hours, she says.
“This new technology will become a significant driving force in the growth of international sales,” Cooper says.
General Cable in Highland Heights designs, makes and ships copper, aluminum and fiber-optic wire and cable products for multiple markets that include communications and energy. It won the 2009 Northern Kentucky International Trade Association Award of Excellence.
In Lexington, Big Ass Fans, or BAF, makes fans with diameters up to 25 feet and ships to 50 countries. The firm has added an employee solely dedicated to boosting international sales. Exports account for less than 10 percent of BAF’s sales, but overseas sales in 2009 grew 20 percent over the previous year, says Carey Smith, the company’s founder and president.
“It is amazing how many people see them outside the country,” Smith says.
Sightings of Big Ass Fans – the Lexington company name is stamped on the blades – often take place in airports in tropical destinations that don’t use air conditioning. The company has industrial and commercial product lines.
“We make everything in Kentucky, and all the components are made within 150 miles of where we are,” Smith says.
International Businesses Help Support State Exports
Some companies, including Paducah-based PEBCO Inc., are benefiting from increased industrialization in countries that include China, India, Colombia and South Africa. PEBCO makes dry-bulk handling equipment used in the mining and basic materials industries.
Rick Ladt, the company’s president, says patented chute systems allow automated and accurate loading onto trucks and trains, and dust-free loading of dry bulk materials is especially popular.
“In the last few years, export has become a larger and larger portion of our business,” he says.