Five local companies are now poised to enter the global marketplace after intensive export training provided by the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce and World Trade Center Charleston.

Graduates of the training program in late May are professionals of GEL Laboratories, Streit USA Armoring, Striped Pig Distillery, UEC Electronics and TIGHITCO.

The training, a component of the Metropolitan Charleston Export Initiative, prepares companies to enter the international market and to expand current exports.

Trainers included representatives from the South Carolina Department of Commerce, the South Carolina District Export Council, the S.C. Small Business Development Center and the U.S. Department of Commerce/Commercial Service, along with World Trade Center Charleston.

A total of twelve companies will complete the training program in 2014.

About the graduates

GEL Laboratories has more than 200 employees and provides analytical laboratory services to governments, engineering firms and nuclear utilities. The company has had some export experience with markets such as France, UK, Japan and Canada, but wanted to continue to explore foreign markets where there are additional opportunities to provide similar services.

"I gained a lot from learning about the resources available for exporting and from hearing others' presentations," said Mac Hodgson, vice president for The GEL Group Inc. "This program has helped our company focus on our international efforts and the connections we made here were very helpful."

Streit USA Armoring provides a variety of protective vehicles with many functions, from law enforcement to funds transfer, to the safe transportation of VIPs and high-visibility targets moving in areas with different threat levels.

Streit's plant in North Charleston serves the federal government and private sector buyers but now has the capacity to export part of its production to overseas. The company was seeking advice on which markets to target, as well as export compliance guidance.

"You can get out of (this training) what you want," said Jerry Myers, proposal manager for Streit. "We came to find resources that we're certainly more aware of now."

Paul Welborn, Streit's director of government contracts added: "Going forward, we know what we can gain from the many resources that were introduced to us - from the World Trade Center to the U.S. Commercial Service."

Striped Pig Distillery is a start-up distillery, producing "moonshine whiskey," rum and vodka made from all-natural, locally-grown ingredients. The company is interested in developing export markets even as they grow their local and domestic sales.

"For a new company looking to export, this should be mandatory," said Casey Lilley, distillery president. "Getting professional feedback from this team has been crucial."

Distillery vice president and partner James Craig said, "The concentration and diversification brought to this program, from the (service providers) to the experts on the panel who offered us feedback... it's a gift to have all these resources in one place - for free."

UEC Electronics, a contract manufacturer of electronic components and equipment for aerospace, defense and commercial customers, was seeking to market its equipment to private sector and foreign markets.

"This was a very good avenue to bring it all together. We now have a working document that helps us focus on exactly what we need to do. I thought it was awesome. ... It's a fantastic opportunity and I recommend it to anyone," said Tyler Bach, UEC's business development manager for global markets.

TIGHITCO designs and fabricates engineered components for aerospace and industrial applications.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or