MANATEE COUNTY -- Russell Hann, president of Hann Powerboats, got into the business accidentally.
Hann told Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, Monday morning that he had commissioned a powerboat for himself when in the middle of production, the person who was building his boat "went to jail for selling marijuana."
It turned out to be fortuitous for Hann, who decided to finish the boat himself.
That experience led him to start Hann Powerboats. He was hooked as soon as he sold three of his fast boats to the U.S. Navy. Since then Hann has taken his boats worldwide. The company has had so much success that it was the only Florida firm featured in the U.S. Commercial Service's Annual Report.
Buchanan and officials with the U.S. Department of Commerce met with leaders and staff at Hann Powerboat on Monday to recognize them for bringing their large military-style fast boats to markets in Africa and the Middle East.
The International Trade Administration, part of the Commerce Department, awarded Hann's company the Export Achievement Certificate, which is given to small and medium-sized businesses that enter the international marketplace. Hann Powerboats was recognized for opening new markets in Panama, Nigeria, Cameroon and Saudi Arabia.
Hann and Kevin McLaughlin, vice president of Hann Powerboats, gave a huge nod to the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corporation and the U.S. Department of Commerce for their success. The U.S. Commercial Service, part of the Commerce Department, helped Hann Powerboats gain access to the export markets and helped them understand the export controls and requirements on the government's end.
"Hann Powerboats is a perfect example of a business that knew they needed to diversify to grow, and thus successfully pursued exporting their boats to international customers," Sharon Hillstrom, president and CEO of the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corporation, said Monday. "Other businesses in Manatee County should take notice, because they too can connect with international markets to grow revenues, and as those revenues grow, create new jobs for local residents, just as Hann Powerboats did."
Hillstrom said that while exports are still a relatively small segment of the local economy, there is huge potential. In fact, she added, the Manatee-Sarasota region saw 27.5 percent growth in exports from 2007 to 2011.
"Our organization's new tag line, 'Think Global. Think Bradenton Area,' is a big idea that is right on target, as evidenced by the global reach of Hann Powerboats," Hillstrom said.