Access Trax wins $25K MetroConnect VI export grand prize

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.


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.


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.

Learn more about WTCSD

San Diego: The cross-border advantage

This piece was published as part of World Trade Week 2023.

Supply chain resiliency can be the difference between a company’s success and its premature decline—especially in the last few years. Recently, we have seen an uptick in U.S.-based companies beginning to look at regionalizing or nearshoring their overall operations. Although Asia remains a cost-effective option, San Diego companies are looking increasingly to Mexico as an ideal location to lead advanced manufacturing, hire a technical workforce, and save money.

Our binational region, which includes San Diego County, Imperial County, and Mexican state of Baja California, is home to more than 7.1 million people and specializes in high-value goods and services. San Diego and Tijuana jointly host some of the world’s strongest innovation clusters, including the world’s largest medical device cluster, due in part to significant foreign direct investment from global firms that often co-locate on both sides of the border.

CaliBaja’s cross-border capabilities

Just 20 minutes south of San Diego’s downtown, Tijuana and the CaliBaja binational mega-region present a unique opportunity for San Diego-based companies looking to localize their impact and lower costs. Here are three ways to do so:

  • Find advanced manufacturers near San Diego: Maquiladoras in Tijuana and Baja California support advanced manufacturing for numerous U.S. aerospace, medical device, and consumer goods companies.
  • Leverage highly-skilled technical talent: San Diego and Tijuana jointly host some of the world’s strongest innovation clusters and brightest engineering and scientific talent. With geographic proximity and fewer visa limitations, Tijuana and San Diego teams can foster stronger collaboration and teamwork, as well as effectively monitor product quality and workflows.
  • Access cost-savings and duty deferral opportunities: Through free trade agreements like the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), companies can take advantage of significant cost-savings and duty deferral programs. This is a significant opportunity for companies with advanced manufacturing operations to diversify supply chains and improve bottom lines.

Learn how San Diego-based Taylor Guitars leverages advanced manufacturers in Baja California:

How do I get started?

First, contact us to set up a free consultation about strategic opportunities in the cross-border region. EDC and World Trade Center San Diego can also help you connect with regional partners that work daily to help companies like yours leverage cross-border resources, including:

  • Tijuana EDC offers complimentary consulting services to help U.S. companies expand manufacturing and nearshore supply chains. In the past few years, Tijuana has experienced unprecedented cross-border business growth and has provided numerous U.S.-based companies with advanced manufacturing solutions.
  • ITJ helps U.S. companies create technology centers of excellence in Mexico and source top technical talent. ITJ serves fast-growing and high-value market sectors, particularly in Life Sciences, Biotechnology, and Internet of Medical Things, and works with innovative medical device companies to improve people’s lives.

Meet our cross-border partners at MetroConnect PitchFest & World Trade Week San Diego on May 11, 2023. ➝ Reserve your ticket.

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Caroline Murray
Caroline Murray

Manager, World Trade Center San Diego