CT Firm Doubles Workforce on Export Order

Dec 20, 2012

A small Middletown company is about to double its workforce, as it signs a huge European export contract. WNPR’s Harriet Jones reports.

“This is our demonstration room. So you’ll see the flags. All these flags represent countries that we’ve installed equipment to…”

Gerard Fenerty is something of a world traveler. In recent years he’s collected more than a few airmiles.

“First one was in El Salvador and the United Kingdom. Then we did business in Venezuela and Colombia. And we did a number of other countries in Europe – Germany, France, Belgium, Denmark…”

Fenerty is the CEO of ID Mail Systems, a small Middletown company based in an unassuming old industrial building down by the train tracks. ID Mail makes mail sorting systems.

“Input module where the mail is fed in, it’s then aligned….”

He’s showing me a demonstration model of a sorting system the company is about to export to Post NL, the national mail carrier in the Netherlands, after the company signed a $12 million contract – the largest in its history.

“We’re a small company, 25 employees, but with this contract from Post NL, we will grow to well over 50. It really moves us into a new level in terms of being able to provide larger-scale automation solutions for postal operators.”

As small as it is, ID Mail Systems was able to land the contract in part because of help from the US Commerce Department.

“We are the international trade administration. Our job is to be the choreographer for all exporters in getting this done.”

Anne Evans who runs the Commerce Department’s office in Connecticut – which just happens to be in Middletown. When executives from Post NL visited ID Mail last July to discuss the deal, Evans brought together representatives from the Small Business Administration, the state’s Economic and Community Development Department, the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce, and the Mayor of Middletown.

“Everybody was in the room saying we are here to support this company. You give them this contract and you will get what you want, you will get it on time. And they were just… they were amazed.”

But to fulfill a multi-year contract that may involved building and delivering as many as 24 huge mail sorting systems the company also needed working capital. Mary Murphy at Liberty Bank has worked with Jerry Fenerty at ID Mail for years.

“When we first entered into a relationship with Jerry it was a perfect fit. We met his existing needs and some growth. But clearly when his greatest opportunities were international, that’s where we were not able to meet everything that he needed.”

In fact ID Mail needed a loan of $1.2 million – too large a nut for Liberty to crack alone. Murphy says partnering with the Small Business Administration was the key.

“To everybody’s credit, we got to grow along with Jerry, and to his credit he didn’t pass us up for a larger bank that might have served his needs.”

Connecticut’s relationships in Europe have been key to its export success in the past, but that success has been severely challenged this year, as Europe’s debt crisis has deepened. The Commerce Department’s Anne Evans.

“There are problems in Europe. There’s problems everywhere. But there are things that countries and consumers need every day. They need mail delivered, they need infrastructure. There’s still money being spent all over the world on goods that we can supply.”

For WNPR, I’m Harriet Jones.