BIRMINGHAM, Ala.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--In 2008, Gilpin and Company’s sales of easy-open ends and specialty packaging had just begun escalating when the U.S. financial system slid into the tank—and stayed there. The meltdown caused banks to stop lending, which in turned threatened small businesses like Gilpin.
Needing financing to take advantage of growth opportunities, Gilpin CEO Paul McClure turned to the Alabama International Trade Center for assistance. Thanks to a creative solution involving the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and First Commercial Bank, McClure’s company was able to continue its growth curve, doubling in three years despite the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. Today, Gilpin is being honored as the SBA Alabama 2011 Small Business Exporter of the Year.
Commenting on the award, McClure credits the support of the Alabama International Trade Center for his company’s success in creating jobs in the United States and international markets for American packaging companies.
“Even though our bank was among the largest in the country, and Gilpin has a strong balance sheet, additional credit was unavailable. Local banks don’t typically deal with foreign risk, and thus weren’t lending,” explains McClure.
“Fortunately, Carol De Castra with the Alabama International Trade Center identified a program through the SBA that guaranteed loans made by local banks to export businesses. We found a new lending partner in First Commercial Bank in Birmingham, and our company was able to move forward with our expansion plans, which in turn created economic opportunities and jobs in Alabama and other states,” he adds.
Gilpin was founded in 1963 as an international packaging supplier specializing in closures for metal cans used to package food and beverage products. McClure began working with the company’s founder, Sandy Gilpin, in 2005. McClure, a graduate of Auburn (1992) and Georgia State (2001) Universities, acquired Gilpin in 2008, locating the company’s headquarters in Birmingham.
McClure says the company has stayed true to its roots in terms of product line and the value placed on relationships with packaging manufacturers and customers. Gilpin markets easy-open ends for metal and plastic containers, plastic cups and bowls, and specialty packaging. The company has a network of sales representatives in 14 countries and supplies customers in over 40 countries, including China, Brazil, Australia, Japan and Mexico, as well as across Europe, Southeast Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
Many of its packaging products are made by American companies, whose quality McClure applauds. “I am proud to be an American and supporting American business,” he said. “That we’ve grown during the worst economy in 70 years speaks to the quality and work ethic of American companies and their people. It shows that if you have the right products, are willing to take risk and value your customers, you can be successful.”
Much of Gilpin’s success as an exporter—which McClure says is a highly complex business—is due to long-term relationships with food, beverage and packaging companies around the world. “Gilpin has a reputation for knowing and respecting the business practices of our customers, regardless of where they are located or what size they are. We have earned the trust of our customers as a result. When they need something, they call Gilpin,” he said.
Even as it accepts the award as Alabama’s Small Business Exporter of the year, Gilpin is preparing for another record year. The company is working on a number of major projects for 2012, with First Commercial Bank as a key partner in growth.
McClure hopes other Alabama companies will recognize that they, too, can be competitive in the global marketplace. “At the core of any company is how well you take care of your customers. Make sure you have the resources necessary to help them be successful, and your success will follow.”