Balco has received a 2016 Innovation Award presented by the Wichita Business Journal in recognition of the company’s ability to pivot during the Great Recession in a successful and aggressive move to save jobs by creating new opportunity overseas.
Balco is a leader in its industry for developing high performance construction products that meet or exceed building code standards with the intent of saving lives, protecting buildings, and providing sustainable building materials that can be recycled or have low energy consumption.
When U.S. construction dropped more than 50 percent from 2008 to 2011, the company was faced with laying off 30 percent of its workforce. Instead of cutting employment during the strong U.S. contraction, Balco decided to innovate by expanding internationally.
“This sharp change in business strategy not only saved all of the employees’ jobs at the time,” said Steve Cooper, V.P. of sales and marketing at Balco, “but it also has resulted in the company growing at several times the pace of commercial construction in the past four years.”
Balco is having its best years in its 57-year history even while U.S. commercial construction is still only about 65 percent of its pre-recession peak.
“When times were tough, we doubled down on a plan to grow rather than to scale back like our competitors ended up doing,” Cooper said. “We doubled our domestic market share and tripled our export business because we retained expertise by saving our team from the recession. We grew from shipping to a handful of countries before 2011 to 49 countries today.”
Cooper says the company’s culture of job creation and employee fulfillment drove them to innovate.
“We found that innovation can come unexpectedly during bad times when you’re backed into a corner and you have to rely upon and re-affirm your core values,” he said.
In 2014 Balco received several honors including Small Business of the Year by the Wichita Business Journal and Grant Thornton’s International Business Excellence award. The company was also a top 5 finalist for the Kansas Governor’s Exporter of the Year award.
In 2015 Balco was again a finalist for Exporter of the Year. This year, the company has been nominated once again for Exporter of the Year as well as nominated for the President’s E Award for international business excellence. The E Award is a rigorous achievement requiring IRS and Department of Commerce verified growth for four consecutive years.