2014 Governor’s Award for Trade Excellence Winners Announced
Recipients to be Recognized at 61st Annual Governor’s Conference

NASHVILLE—The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development today announced that Swiftwick, Jackson Kayak and Gibson are recipients of the Governor’s Award for Trade Excellence. The GATE Award honors small, medium and large companies who have achieved excellence in engaging in global trade. The winners will be presented their awards on Friday, Nov. 14, at the 61st Annual Governor’s Conference on Economic and Community Development during the Governor’s Luncheon.

“One of TNECD’s key strategies has been to grow Tennessee exports and assist Tennessee businesses in their exporting efforts,” TNECD Commissioner Bill Hagerty said.  “In 2013, our state’s exports topped more than $32.3 billion, an increase of 24.5 percent since Governor Haslam took office.  Tennessee’s economy is more connected to the global economy than ever before, and I congratulate our GATE Award winners on their business acumen and their aggressive approach to global markets that has allowed them to tap new markets and maintain international competitiveness.”

Swiftwick, the small company winner, is a performance sock manufacturer that proudly employs an American workforce in high-quality textile manufacturing. Founded in 2008, Swiftwick is headquartered in Brentwood, Tennessee. The company inked an international distribution deal with Rock Gear in Canada and more recently secured a distribution deal with Ortho Europe based in England. Swiftwick has multiple other commercial deals in advanced stages of the pipeline and expect more international growth in 2015. 

Jackson Kayak in Sparta, the medium company winner, manufactures kayaks, coolers and accessories for its own brand name, in addition to creating custom moldings for other companies. Eric Jackson founded Jackson Kayak in 2004, and he created sales on five continents within just two years of business. Since then, Jackson Kayak has made many more distributor partnerships in countries around Europe, Asia and South America. The company most recently began exporting to Russia and China.

Gibson, the large company winner, is known worldwide for producing classic models in every major style of fretted instrument including acoustic and electric guitars, mandolins and banjos. Gibson’s digital guitar, introduced in 2002, represents the biggest advantage in electric guitar design in more than 70 years. Founded in 1894 in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and headquartered in Nashville since 1984, Gibson Guitar Corp.’s family of brands now includes Epiphone, Dobro, Valley Arts, Kramer, Steinberger, Tobias, Slingerland, Maestro, Baldwin, Hamilton, Chickering and Wurlitzer. A manufacturing facility was opened in Nashville in 1974, and instruments were made in Kalamazoo and Nashville until 1984 when the Kalamazoo plant was closed and headquarters moved to Nashville.

Tennessee companies exported $32.3 billion worth of goods and services in 2013, and Tennessee’s export growth of $6.3 billion from 2010-2013 ranks No. 10 in the nation.  Top export commodities include transportation equipment, chemicals, computer and electronic products, miscellaneous manufactured commodities, and machinery.  Top export markets include Canada, Mexico, China, Japan and Belgium.

TNECD’s export assistance initiative, TNTrade, is designed to help small- and medium-sized businesses grow their export activity.  For more information on the program, please visit export.tnecd.com. 

The 61st Annual Governor’s Conference on Economic and Community Development will be held November 13-14 at the Renaissance Nashville Hotel. For more information on the conference, please visit govcon.tnecd.com.

About the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development 

Tennessee was named “2013 State of the Year” for economic development by Business Facilities magazine. The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development’s mission is to develop strategies which help make Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs. The department seeks to attract new corporate investment in Tennessee and works with Tennessee companies to facilitate expansion and economic growth. Find us on the web: tn.gov/ecd. Follow us on Twitter: @tnecd.  Like us on Facebook: facebook.com/tnecd. 



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