Two North Carolina companies, ImmunoReagents Inc. of Raleigh and Merchants Distributors of Hickory, are among 26 businesses nationwide being honored by the U.S. Department of Commerce for their sustained increase in exports over the past four years.

The companies received their “E” Award for Exports in a ceremony held Monday at Commerce offices in Washington, D.C. They were among 45 U.S. companies and organizations, many of which are small- and medium-sized enterprises, honored at the 2015 President’s “E” Awards ceremony.

“Today’s awardees have made substantial contributions to increasing U.S. exports, which are critical to spurring economic growth and job creation,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said.

Ann Black founded ImmunoReagents, which manufactures secondary and primary antibodies for the research and diagnostic markets, in October 2005 at North Carolina State University’s Centennial Campus. Since its founding, she said, the company has gone from offering four to six product lines to 1,500 or more, outgrown its campus location, moved to a much larger space and expanded from three employees to 11 full-time and three part-time employees.

In 2010, Black began tapping into resources offered through the North Carolina Department of Commerce — free assistance now provided by the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina — to expand her company’s global sales. That assistance included helping ImmunoReagents identify funding to attend major international trade shows, connect with global distributors, translate brochures, locate new headquarters and more.

In 2011, total company sales attributable to exports was only 3 percent. By 2014, it had spiked to 25 percent. Regional distributors now offer the company’s products in the U.S., Canada and 22 countries in Europe, Asia and Australia, according to the company’s website.

Merchants Distributors (MDI), is a privately owned wholesale distributor of food and goods to grocery stores, according to its website. MDI supplies more than 600 retail food stores.

In addition to the 26 companies recognized for sustained growth in exports, the U.S. Commerce Department gave the “E” Award for Export Service to 12 companies that facilitate export. Four firms received the “E” Star Award for Exports, which recognizes previous “E” Award winners with four years of additional export growth. And, three companies received “E” Star Award for Export Service, which recognizes previous “E” Award winners that have shown four years of continued support of exporters since first winning the “E” Award.

“Only a small percentage of America’s 30 million companies export, and of U.S. companies that do export, 59 percent export to only one country,” Commerce Secretary Pritzker said. “Increasing this number can have a big impact on the U.S. economy.”

Pritzker, addressing the winners at the 53rd annual “E” awards ceremony, said: “Every awardee in this room and the 300,000 U.S. businesses that export understand that 96 percent of the world’s customers live beyond our borders. Today, there are 570 million middle class consumers living in the Asia Pacific region; by 2030, that number is expected to reach 3.2 billion. No smart business would ignore that much opportunity.”

If your North Carolina business wants assistance entering foreign markets or expanding your exports, email Senior International Trade Manager Kuldip Wasson or call 919-447-7758.