National Small Business Week kicks off Tuesday, honoring the nation’s small businesses and this year inviting them to register for a free three-day virtual conference including presentations and panels focused on helping businesses recover, adapt, and innovate during the pandemic.
The Sept. 22-24 event, coordinated by the U.S. Small Business Administration, will include recognizing the 2020 Small Business Person of the Year from each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam. North Carolina’s winner is William Howe, president of Apex Instruments in Fuquay Varina, a company that designs, manufactures and distributes emission-measurement sampling equipment.
“I was honored to hear we had received this award,” Howe said. “This is a tribute to all the people who have worked so hard to help build this company. We are all very grateful to receive this recognition.”
The SBA, which has coordinated and celebrated National Small Business Week for more than 50 years, will reveal the National Business Person of the Year during the observance. Originally scheduled in May, this year’s event was postponed and retooled as a virtual gathering because of the pandemic.
“I am thrilled to host SBA’s virtual National Small Business Week ceremony and provide this opportunity to recognize inspiring entrepreneurs from across the country for their innovation, and in many cases this year, resilience,” said SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza.
Howe founded Apex Instruments in 1988, operating initially out of his home in Apex. The company outgrew that spot and subsequent locations in Apex and Holly Springs. It now employs 38 people and has a headquarters campus of five buildings with over 40,000 square feet of office, manufacturing, and warehouse space in Fuquay Varina.
“We couldn’t be happier to see Bill Howe recognized as North Carolina’s Small Business Person of the Year,” said John Loyack, vice president of global business services at the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina.
The EDPNC is part of the state’s network of organizations and agencies that offer services to support small-business growth. In Apex Instruments’ case, the EDPNC has helped the company connect to grants funded by the SBA’s State Trade Expansion Program. The EDPNC manages the program locally.
STEP grants help small businesses (defined as having fewer than 500 employees) pay for travel and booth costs associated with exhibiting at international trade shows. In recent years, the grants have supported Apex Instruments’ participation in the Pollutec environment and energy technologies trade show in France and the CEM conference on emissions monitoring in Portugal and India.
“Apex Instruments made the decision to go global soon after its inception, which has proven to be critical and essential to its long-term success,” Howe said. “Exporting has proven to be instrumental in managing risk. As an example, our U.S. market and international markets tend to offset one another during economic volatility.”
Currently, global customers represent roughly 65% of the company’s overall sales, he said.