World Trade Center San Diego and 200+ voting audience award $25K for international expansion
World Trade Center San Diego (WTCSD) named Access Trax, which provides ADA compliant portable access mats for outdoor accessibility, as the winner of the MetroConnect export accelerator program, now in its sixth year. Made possible through a grant from JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Procopio, Access Trax will use the $25,000 award to expand its presence in markets such as Canada and Australia.
With more than 75 million people around the world using a wheelchair on a daily basis, Access Trax’ portable, foldable mats create pathways to access outdoor terrain like sand, grass, gravel, and snow that is otherwise impossible to navigate.
“Access Trax is the perfect reflection of San Diego’s life-changing innovation, leveraging our region’s excellence in manufacturing and lifestyle to help drive accessibility around the globe,” said Lucas Coleman, WTCSD Director. “The company’s results from MetroConnect’s sixth cohort are impressive. Whether it’s fine-tuning the go-to-market strategy in target markets such as Canada or alleviating critical language translation challenges, working to connect small and medium-sized businesses to international markets builds greater resilience here at home.”
The female-founded small business Access Trax beat out three other finalists in MetroConnect VI, Novo Brazil Brewing, Nano PharmaSolutions, and Solecta. The grand prize-winning company was decided via real-time audience vote during the Grand Prize PitchFest event May 11 at UC San Diego Park & Market. Prior to this, a committee of senior international business leaders in San Diego helped the WTCSD team nominate these top performers, out of the initial 15-company cohort.
“The MetroConnect program was instrumental in helping us lay the foundation for our strategic international growth. Access Trax is thrilled to earn the top vote of the audience and judges and we look forward to using the $25K towards local job creation and continued export growth for an even bigger impact,” said Kelly Twichel, CEO of Access Trax, the MetroConnect VI Grand Prize winner.
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
In its first six years, MetroConnect has helped 95 local, small and mid-sized businesses generate a net increase of $97 million in international sales, 522 international contracts, and 32 overseas facilities. This international growth has coincided with 319 new hires here in the San Diego region.
Each cohort year, WTCSD selects 15 export-ready small businesses to receive $5,000 export grants, access to executive workshops, translation software, and a chance to win a $25,000 grand prize to aid in further international market expansion. Applications for year seven of the MetroConnect program are now open through July 14, 2023. Interested small- and medium-sized companies that are looking to pursue international sales as a near-term priority or already exporting its goods or services may apply here.
GLOBAL CONNECTION TO BOOST RESILIENCE
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the national rhetoric around global trade has shifted. According to The World Bank, countries that trade internationally enjoy more economic growth, are more innovative and productive, and can provide more opportunities to citizens. San Diego is no exception—regional small businesses that export tend to have a larger and more diversified customer base, pick up best practices from global competitors, build up economies of scale, and ultimately pay their employees more. Access to international customers and markets is essential in helping San Diego’s business community recover after the COVID-19 pandemic, as small businesses employ 60 percent of San Diegans.
“For nearly a decade now, JPMorgan Chase and MetroConnect have teamed up to help San Diego businesses push the boundaries of innovation and growth,” said Aaron Ryan, Managing Director for San Diego Middle Market Banking at JPMorgan Chase. “San Diego is one of the most resilient economies in the U.S., and we keep seeing how businesses here are primed to realize their full potential across the globe.”
WTCSD hosted its MetroConnect Grand Prize PitchFest on May 11, with remarks by Nikia Clarke, Executive Director, WTCSD; Kevin Cox, President, Electra Bicycle Company; Danny Fitzgerald, Regional Director, San Diego & Imperial SBDC Network; and program underwriter Aaron Ryan, Managing Director for San Diego Middle Market Banking, JPMorgan Chase.
WTCSD has year-round, non-exclusive international opportunities that help companies break expand internationally, such as the Export SBDC and strategy for global engagement.