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Wichita-based Balco earns national recognition for export effort

Balco Inc. worker Justin Howell lays adhesive tape on stair nosings at the Wichita plant. The company, which also has a facility in Oklahoma City, was honored with the President’s E Award for Exports in Washington, D.C. The company exports about 25 percent of what it makes overseas. (May 16, 2016)
Balco Inc. worker Justin Howell lays adhesive tape on stair nosings at the Wichita plant. The company, which also has a facility in Oklahoma City, was honored with the President’s E Award for Exports in Washington, D.C. The company exports about 25 percent of what it makes overseas. (May 16, 2016) The Wichita Eagle

Wichita-based Balco was one of 73 companies nationwide recognized Monday in Washington, D.C., for a sustained run of success in exporting.

A manufacturer of high-end construction and architectural products, Balco was the only Kansas company to receive a President’s “E” Award distinction for 2016. Penny Pritzker, U.S. Secretary of Commerce, honored 123 companies that export goods and services overseas.

In receiving its award, Balco was recognized as having four consecutive years of increased exports, according to a news release from the Department of Commerce.

“It’s a big honor,” said Steve Cooper, Balco’s vice president of sales and marketing, during a phone interview following Monday’s ceremony. “For Balco, the win in all this is recognition that we created jobs over the past four years. Exports were the carrier of that.”

Cooper said the manufacturer, which also has a plant in Oklahoma City, made a strategic decision in 2011 to pursue new global markets as a way to help protect its workforce from the economic downturn following the financial collapse of 2008 and 2009.

“We saved all of our jobs during that period, and even added some,” Cooper said.

After exporting to just a handful of countries prior to 2011, Cooper said Balco now ships to nearly 50 countries.

About 25 percent of Balco’s products are now shipped out of the U.S., Cooper said. In a congratulatory letter to the company, Pritzker praised Balco for for its commitment to export expansion, adding that the committee was impressed with the Wichita company’s customization of its products to fit customer needs.

Balco employs 55 people at its Wichita operation, 2626 S. Sheridan, and about 90 company-wide. Balco makes products like joint covers, fire barriers, entrance mats and egress path systems, often for large commercial buildings.

The metal products are designed to protect structures and occupants during earthquakes, fires, storms and other structural threats, Cooper said.

Karyn Page, CEO and president of Kansas Global Trade Services, said Balco also has played a leadership role in the formation of the Wichita nonprofit organization’s regional export plan for south-central Kansas.

“Balco provides a real life example of how exports protect jobs and spur economic growth,” Page said in a news release. “The company is committed to sharing its success story to encourage others down the same path.”

Founded in 1957, Balco joined with five other Capital Southwest Corp. portfolio companies to form CSW Industrials in October.

The President’s “E” Award was created in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy.

Bryan Horwath: 316-269-6708, @bryan_horwath

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