Innovation, Trade Summit Comes To CT

Jul 9, 2012

Connecticut will be the destination later this month for hundreds of small high tech companies from all over the Eastern United States. They’ll be here for the national Small Business Innovation Research and Global Trade Summit, to be held at Mohegan Sun. WNPR’s Harriet Jones reports.

The list of attendees at this summer’s Small Business Innovation Research or SBIR Summit might surprise you. Deb Santy runs the SBIR office in Connecticut.

“Boeing is here, Sikorsky is here, Raytheon is here, Pratt & Whitney is here, Jackson Labs will be there, Merck will be there, Northeast Utilities is here, Northrop Grumman is here, Sherwin Williams is here – the list goes on and on and on.”

And what are all these giants doing at a small business conference?

“Those companies come to scout. They’re literally scouts for innovation. Everybody gets scouting for basketball players – well, these guys are scouting for innovation and designers and inventors.”

She says this conference is all about making connections between small businesses and big businesses, small businesses and federal agencies, and this year, between small businesses and overseas opportunities.

“Most jobs will come from small businesses, number one; number two they’re local so we want to care for them, we want to nurture them for the jobs themselves, but also for the fact that they’re more apt to stay here. But partner them with those global companies which we’re doing and partner them with those other countries.”

Connecticut last hosted this national conference in 2010. This year’s event will focus for the first time on exporting and global trade. Santy says that shift reflects the realities of the world economy.

“You can invent it and you can manufacture it, but you need to sell it everywhere.”

Connecticut’s economy was somewhat buoyed by exports in recent years. Exporting companies lead the way out of the recession in 2010 by boosting overseas sales by almost 15%, although that growth fell off somewhat in 2011. Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development Catherine Smith.

“This is a great growth opportunity for lots of companies. They may not realize it, but there are huge markets and very rapidly growing markets for a lot of the products that we produce here in the state.”

The export aspect of the summit is being managed by the US Commerce Department’s Connecticut office under Anne Evans. She says the idea is to make it a one-stop-shop for small businesses…

“...along with many of my colleagues from overseas, to do one on one and round table counseling on how to get into those markets.”

The attendees are mostly in high tech industries, and Evans says it’s a particularly timely opportunity for defense specialists.

“Here in Connecticut we are facing a real challenge with the U.S. defense budget and its struggle. And we’ve got to find business in countries where we can do business in defense, because our defense industries are vital to us here in Connecticut and part of my job is to find them business overseas.”

The national SBIR and Global Trade Summit convenes at Mohegan Sun July 24th and runs until the 26th.

For WNPR, I'm Harriet Jones.