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Export Plan in Hand, Hydroheater Maker Triples Its Business

Export Plan in Hand, Hydroheater Maker Triples Its Business

This article originally appeared on Industry Week. Guest blog post by Buckley Brinkman, Executive Director and CEO of the Wisconsin Center for Manufacturing and Productivity (WCMP).

Competition in domestic markets is fiercer than ever, and more companies are turning to international markets to grow top-line profits. It’s no wonder, since 95% of consumers and 70% of the world’s spending power resides outside of the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. The purchasing power of billions of new consumers is rapidly increasing in emerging economies.

In addition to the growing international consumer base and rising purchasing power, numerous factors are leading U.S. manufacturers to increasingly consider exporting, including:

Profitability. Exporting can be profitable for businesses of all sizes. On average, sales grow faster, more jobs are created, and employees earn more than in non-exporting firms.

Competitive Advantage. The United States is known throughout the world for high quality, innovative goods and services, customer service and sound business practices.

Risk Mitigation. Most companies that export have an easier time riding out fluctuations in the U.S. economy and are more likely to stay in business.

For one manufacturer located in Waukesha, Wisconsin, exporting to foreign markets made all the difference. Hydro-Thermal is a third-generation-owned family business that manufactures hydroheaters, which are used in a variety of industries to precisely and efficiently heat water and process fluids. The company can trace its roots back to 1927, when inventors John White and Roy Miller patented heating equipment using steam to control water temperature. In 1964, the Zaiser family purchased the business and renamed it Hydro-Thermal Corp. Over the years, the company has experienced steady growth by expanding its product line and entering new industries and markets.

Hydro-Thermal had been shipping its products to foreign markets since 2000, but it really upped the ante with help from a national assistance program, ExporTech

Hydro-Thermal’s current CEO and president, Jim Zaiser, has led the company’s product diversification, international expansion, and system integration since 2002. Zaiser knew hydroheaters could be applied in industries around the world, and exporting would allow for crucial business diversification that could lessen the financial impact during market downturns.

Hydro-Thermal had been successfully shipping its products to foreign markets since 2000, but its leadership team felt the company would benefit from further international expansion. They just needed help creating a viable plan that could be quickly implemented, and then deliver the desired results.

One day in late 2015, executives from Hydro-Thermal attended an ExporTech event, hosted by the Wisconsin Center for Manufacturing and Productivity (part of the MEP National NetworkTM), and discovered a program that could provide the guidance the Hydro-Thermal team needed.

ExporTech is a national export assistance program that helps companies enter or expand into global markets. The program is jointly offered by Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the U.S. Commercial Service of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Through the ExporTech program, Hydro-Thermal went through a structured process to develop a strategic export growth plan, with the goal of helping the company become as diversified as possible throughout the world. The plan was vetted by a panel of experienced international businesspeople whose guidance helped the company rapidly expand its global sales and save countless hours of effort.

“When you’ve got a presence in four or five continents, it helps mellow the peaks and valleys in different economies and markets,” said Gary Bymers, international sales manager at Hydro-Thermal. "China might be doing poorly at a given time, but maybe South America has picked up that year.”

Hydro-Thermal then ramped up its export efforts, rapidly adding jobs to keep up with demand. These efforts were so successful that Hydro-Thermal tripled in size and received the Governor’s Export Achievement Award in 2016.

The Governor’s Export Achievement Award recognizes companies that have achieved extraordinary results in international markets and elevated Wisconsin’s competitiveness in the global economy. The award serves dual purposes, both to recognize a company’s good work, and to showcase examples of best practices in export growth so that other Wisconsin companies can learn and apply similar tactics.

“Exporting allows us to grow and to diversify our economic efforts, so that when one country is doing poorly, we can rely on another. It provides overall stability,” explained Hydro-Thermal president and CEO Jim Zaiser. "For our product, there is no reason it should stay just inside the United States,” he added.

Hydo-Thermal has more than a dozen active patents and registration in numerous foreign countries. It manages business processes through an integrated ISO 9001 quality procedure. The company continues to innovate, grow, and invest in the health and wellness of its employees.


MEP National Network Logo
Wisconsin Center for Manufacturing and Productivity (WCMP) is the official representative of the MEP National Network in Wisconsin. The MEP National Network is a unique public-private partnership that helps small and medium-sized manufacturers generate business results and thrive in today’s technology-driven economy. The MEP National Network comprises the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NIST MEP), the 51 MEP Centers located in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

About the author

Buckley Brinkman

Buckley Brinkman is the Executive Director/CEO of the Wisconsin Center for Manufacturing and Productivity (WCMP). He is also a representative for the MEP National Network a unique public-private partnership that delivers comprehensive, proven solutions to U.S. manufacturers, fueling growth and advancing U.S. manufacturing. Leading the WCMP since June 2011, Brinkmann has brought more than 25 years of transformational manufacturing leadership to organization, with a breadth of experience in helping companies drive growth, world-class competitiveness and performance excellence.

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