A Leland-based manufacturer of safety equipment for workers in the pharmaceutical and nanotechnology fields garnered the N.C. Exporter of the Year Award from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Flow Sciences Inc. received the award at the SBA’s Small Business Week luncheon held in Raleigh last week, at which SBA Administrator Linda McMahon presided.

“Through its expert counselors, the SBA-affiliated Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC) has been an integral part of Flow Sciences’ success,” stated the SBA’s announcement of the state’s small business award recipients. “In addition, the company has benefitted from the SBA STEP program, enabling it to expand into foreign markets. Export sales have steadily increased to more than 20 percent of annual revenues and are expected to grow. “

Flow Sciences’ Vice President of International Sales Steve Janz said that the company’s use of state and federal programs to increase its international sales was a key to its winning the award.

The STEP program, for example, provides support to companies that want to attend trade shows and similar business events in target foreign markets, Janz said. Flow Sciences has used it to extend  its international sales, and now has customers in 32 countries.  Since the beginning of 2018, Flow has added customers in Australia, the United Arab Emirates and Vietnam.

To reduce its risk in extending credit to foreign customers, Flow uses the federal Export Import Bank’s credit insurance program, which pays a participating U.S. exporter 95 percent of revenue lost, should a customer default on payment.

With the help of these programs, Flow Sciences has increased its international sales 2-3 percent over the past three years, according to Janz. Foreign sales now represent about 20 percent of its total sales, and Janz expects the upward trend of exports to continue because of the growth of the pharmaceutical industry.

“This year I will spend a total of over a month in India,” he said, citing India’s growing role in the pharmaceutical and nanotechnology industries.

The 2018 Exporter of the Year award is the third accolade Flow Sciences has earned in as many months. In early March, Flow Sciences won the Business Journal-sponsored MADE Award in the Functional Product category. Later that month, the company was recognized by NASBITE (National Association of Small Business International Trade Educators) at its annual conference as one of its Outstanding Exporter Honorees.

This high-level recognition has brought Flow Sciences to the attention of state and federal officials, resulting in the company’s receiving invitations to participate in export-related events, Janz said. Very recently it was invited to an upcoming symposium designed to help businesses in the medical, biomedical and biodefense industries sell their products and services to the federal government and the military.