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Manufacturing Company takes a STEP Overseas

Founded in 1994 as part of an incubator project in Corning, New York, Silicon Carbide Products (SCP) is a manufacturing company that produces complex Nitride Bonded Silicon Carbide products and has trusted partnerships in place to provide many other ceramic solutions. The ceramic material is used as a liner in equipment to fight off abrasion and corrosion in industrial environments. SCP plays an important role in reducing wear, withstanding extreme temperatures, and handling harsh chemicals, while extending the life of many industrial systems.

In the two decades since the business first started, Silicon Carbide Products has grown to become an overseas exporter that employs 25 people at a 5-acre manufacturing facility based out of Horseheads, New York. In early 2018, Josh Dahlman and Rick Cleveland took over the company as President and Vice President. Dahlman and Cleveland had both worked at SCP for close to a decade as General Manager and Sales Executive.

When Cleveland came on board at Silicon Carbide Products, he was specifically tasked with diversifying the business and expanding their portfolio of customers. Due to the use of SCP’s material in niche markets such as petrochemicals, material handling, and mining, moving into new areas can be difficult. The materials that SCP manufactures are also used in power generation facilities, including the coal fire power plant space – a declining industry in the U.S.

“This was one of the reasons that led us to expand globally. In many areas, such as Africa and India, it is not feasible for them to adopt other forms of energy when they have low cost coal in their markets. So, there was a natural drive to look outside of the U.S. because of that,” Cleveland states.

Prior to Dahlman and Cleveland taking over the company, Silicon Carbide Products was already exporting to two international customers, both based in Germany. But even with these relationships, SCP had no active program to expand their reach into other areas.

To help with their exporting needs, SCP enrolled in the U.S. Small Business Administration’s State Trade Expansion Program (STEP), administered by the Global New York division of Empire State Development. STEP can assist New York State businesses with participation in programmed foreign trade missions, subscription to services provided by the Department of Commerce, trade show exhibitions, qualified foreign market sales trips, foreign language translation, and more.

“We manufacture niche products so it’s like a needle in a haystack trying to find new customers; let alone find them in another country with another language,” Cleveland comments. “In working with this program, you gain access to interpreters, trade show booths and relationships with people in new areas. It’s incredibly valuable.”

Silicon Carbide Products participated in STEP through trade show marketing which is something the company had never done previously. The grant funding from the program enabled them to put together booths at International Trade Exhibits. “We were able to show people what we had and what we can do,” Cleveland adds.

After a few years in the program, SCP began attending trade shows in other countries such as Peru, Chile, and Canada before eventually participating in foreign trade missions. During their participation in a trade mission to South Africa in February of 2019, Silicon Carbide Products met with a company that was interested in their products. To date, SCP has received and shipped orders exceeding $600K for this new company alone.

STEP provided Silicon Carbide Products with an opportunity to establish overseas contacts and increase export sales. Over the last four to five years since joining the program, international exports have accounted for about 60% of Silicon Carbide Products sales.


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State Trade Expansion Program (STEP)

STEP provides financial awards to state and territory governments to assist small businesses with export development. The goal of the program is to increase the number of small businesses that begin to export; increase the value of exports for small businesses that currently export; and increase the number of small businesses exploring significant new trade opportunities.