Founded in 1959, Labcon, North America, is a Petaluma, California-based manufacturer of laboratory disposables. Starting with its first export market in 1990, the company now supplies 800 products to labs in 56 countries. Of its $30 million in yearly sales, one-third comes directly from exports. In 1995, the company began to develop products that were less wasteful, and incorporate concepts of "eco-efficiency" using less packaging, recycled plastics, and refillable packages.
In 2007, Jim Happ, CEO of Labcon, North America, contacted the local U.S. Commercial Service (CS) office in North Bay, California to find out more about connecting with reliable overseas partners. Shortly thereafter, the CS encouraged Happ to attend a CS seminar on doing business in Singapore which provided information on opportunities in the country. The CS then worked with Labcon to develop market entry strategies, and with collaboration of CS Singapore, provided the company with the Gold Key matchmaking service and trade counseling.
“The U.S. Commercial Service has saved us time and money. It could have taken us years of going through bad distributors until we found the right one, but we knew we could trust the companies the CS introduced us to,” said Happ. “Through the Gold Key Service, we interviewed with great potential partners, which was ended up being crucial to our success in Singapore.”
Between 2007 and 2010, Labcon quadrupled its business in Singapore, and in the last year, has doubled its sales to Europe. Also boosting the firm’s international competitiveness are its redesigned products which use less packaging. As a result, the firm can ship 30 percent more volume on its overseas shipping containers, thereby increasing efficiency and reducing costs.
Thanks in large part to its export sales, Labcon has weathered the economic downturn very well. For example, it has averaged overall growth of 20 percent, purchased its own building, contracted for an 800kw solar installation, and added ten new employees. In the last year alone, the company has experienced 25 percent overall growth of which 10 percent can be attributed to its export sales.
The company continues to tap CS assistance as it looks to locate and establish partnerships around the world, including China, India, and Europe. Also high on the firm’s export agenda are the markets of Russia and Turkey.
For those companies that have yet to export, Happ offers the following advice: “If you have a competitive product in the U.S., then your possibilities for being competitive overseas are very real. Exporting has made us a stronger company and more balanced financially, and it can work for your company as well.”
In 2011, Labcon was awarded the “E” Award for Excellence in Exporting, presented by Secretary Locke.