Upstate and Western New York companies that do business internationally grew three times faster – and boosted revenue by 10 percent more – than companies that operated only in the United States over the last five years, according to new bank-sponsored research intended to promote global trade.
The report, commissioned by HSBC Bank USA and the World Trade Center Buffalo Niagara, found that companies do better in the long term if they export to a diversified overseas customer base.
Moreover, they are more likely to outpace the U.S. economy, since many of the emerging countries and even some developed nations are growing faster than the United States.
“We’ve long held that international trade is a positive thing to be considering and that market diversification is a means to manage market fluctuations,” said Kevin B. Quinn, HSBC senior vice president and head of corporate banking for upstate New York. HSBC operates 6,900 offices in 80 countries.
Specifically, the report said, publicly traded global companies based in upstate New York reported that revenues grew at an average of 4.59 percent from 2010 to 2011, versus just 1.69 percent for purely domestic firms. Ten businesses reported international revenues at or above the 29 percent average in 2011.
Both groups of companies saw revenue declines from 2008 to 2010, in the depths of the recession, and then posted revenue increases the following year. Overall, average net revenues grew by 2.76 percent for global firms and by 1.98 percent for U.S.-only firms.
Global businesses earned $2.67 billion more in revenues than domestic companies in upstate New York in 2011. And the gap between global and domestic companies has been widening since 2008, as global firms posted an average of 13 percent higher revenues from 2007 to 2011. The gap ranged from 10 to 16 percent per year.
That disparity “really caught my eye,” said Christopher Johnston, president of World Trade Center Buffalo Niagara, which promotes trade. “It does reaffirm a lot of the things that we believed. By being spread out in international markets, they’re really increasing their profitability.”
The U.S. economy is projected to grow by about 2 to 2.5 percent a year over the next few years – much slower than countries such as China, India, Brazil, Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Turkey. And while some countries may carry higher risks, they also offer more opportunities, officials said.
“So if a company has a product or service that translates well into a foreign market, they should look to those markets to consider expansion,” Quinn said. “There’s no question it benefits upstate New York. If they can expand their customer base, they can add employees.”
Already, the report said, exports of precious stones and metals, machinery, medical technology and drugs are driving growth in air cargo, with upstate New York exporting $9.3 billion in machinery by water in 2012 to China, India, Germany, South Korea and Saudi Arabia.
The report, titled “HSBC Spotlight on U.S. Trade,” is the first in a series looking at publicly traded firms in key regions across the country. The bank decided to start with upstate New York, looking at the impact of international trade on the 30 largest public companies in the Buffalo Niagara, Rochester, Syracuse and Albany areas. Seventeen do business globally.
Officials focused on nonbank public companies because historical revenue and other data is more readily and consistently available than for private firms. Locally, those companies included Moog, Gibraltar Industries, Columbus McKinnon Corp., National Fuel Gas Co., Greatbatch, Computer Task Group, Synacor, Mod-Pac, Servotronics, Astronics, Sovran Self-Storage, Ecology and Environment and Taylor Devices.
“It’s relevant information for not just public companies,” Quinn said. “Their international business didn’t evolve overnight. They’ve been at it for a long time, and that’s the same opportunity that a small and middle-market company has.”