San Diego Business Journal Ubrandit.comn Expands Its Web Operations in Europe

Unless you're in the water reclamation/ purification industry, chances are you haven't heard of Applied Membranes Inc. in Vista.

That wouldn't break the heart of founder and President Gil Dhawan, who says the company has a good reputation both domestically and in the 80 countries it now sells its goods.

The 17-year-old company got a little more recognition earlier this month when the San Diego World Trade Center named it as Exporter of the Year for the emerging exporter category.

The WTC gave out Exporter of Year awards in the mid-sized category, to Wireless Facilities Inc., and to a major firm, Science Applications International Corp.

Like many other smaller companies, Applied Membranes didn't sell its products used for water filtration beyond the country's borders until about 10 years ago, Dhawan said.

"Our first year, we did only about $100,000 in exports. This year we'll probably do between $5 million to $10 million in export sales," he said, declining to be more specific for competitive reasons.

Overall, exports account for about half the company's total revenues, with the rest coming from domestic sales.

In the last five years, the firm has boosted its overseas sales; for the most recent year, by about 25 percent, Dhawan said.

The countries buying most of Applied Membranes' products changes from year to year, but in recent years business has been brisk in Asia, South America and Mexico, he said.

A large number of customers use the products for potable drinking water systems, but they also include industrial customers which need purified water for manufacturing, he said.

Applied Membranes' increased sales have boosted the company's employment by some 15 persons this year, bringing its total to about 100, Dhawan said.

WTC President Kathy Ward said Applied Membranes' success is mirrored in hundreds of smaller enterprises in the area that are selling more products and services outside this country.

In fact, from 1994 to 1998, according to the most recent Department of Commerce figures available, exports originating from San Diego have nearly doubled to about $8.6 billion.

Using a formula of 12,000 jobs for every $1 billion in sales, that means exports sales are responsible for some 103,000 jobs locally, Ward said.

"These aren't just manufacturing jobs," she said. "They run across a broad spectrum of employees and could include freight forwarders, marketing people, and attorneys."

- - -

More WTC Winners: The rest of the winners at the 23rd annual World Trade Center gala are: President's E-Award, Imperial Bank; International Trading Company of the Year/Baja California, Alson International Trading Inc.; Importer of the Year, Directed Electronics Inc.; Service Organization of the Year, CANIETI (the Mexican chamber for the electronics, telecommunications and information technology industries); Bill Ivans International Trading Award, Technik; the William H. Curran Distinguished Service Award, Leon Reinhart, president of First National Bank; the AT & T; Outstanding Leadership Award, Peter C. Farrell, CEO of ResMed Inc.

The judges for this year's awards were Mike McDade, partner with Sullivan Wertz McDade & Wallace; Richard Feinberg, professor at UCSD's Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies; Enrique Mier y Teran, president of Parque Industrial Tecnomex in Tijuana; Jessie Knight, president of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce; Barry McComic, partner, McComic Consolidated Inc.; Bill Malone, partner, Arthur Andersen; and Leon Reinhart of First National Bank.

Ubrandit Expands In Europe: Ubrandit.com, a San Diego-based business to business provider of Internet solutions including Internet access, said it added 750 point of presence locations in the United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium, Spain and Italy. A point of presence is a telephone number that allows customers to access the Internet using a local phone number.

While Ubrandit is unable to solicit European customers because of regulatory restrictions, the addition of the POPs provides better Internet access to its current customers who may be traveling through Europe, the firm said.

Ubrandit supplies co-branded Internet content and E-commerce applications to businesses and media groups. The 2-year-old company with 52 employees, half of whom work in San Diego, moved from the Over The Counter bulletin board to the American Stock Exchange this year, and was trading at about $1.12 as of Nov. 15.

- - -

PriceSmart Opens 11 New Stores: San Diego-based PriceSmart, the warehouse store chain that operates outside the United States, said it opened four new stores in its fourth quarter ending Aug. 31, bringing the total to 11 new stores in its fiscal year.

The firm now counts 17 stores, all of which are in Central America and the Caribbean. The company has four in Panama, three each in Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic, two each in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, and one in Trinidad.

The company also licenses five stores in China and one in Saipan.

The expansion costs for the year came to $7.7 million, and was a large reason for the company's net loss for the year.

For the fourth quarter, it lost $4.6 million on sales of $96.6 million. For its fiscal year, the loss was $5.4 million on sales of $304.6 million, compared to a net loss of $3.9 million on sales of $108.9 million in the previous fiscal year.

President Gil Partida said the company's goals next year are to reach $500 million in sales and make a profit. It also plans to open five new stores in the second half of the year in Aruba, Barbados, St. Thomas, and the Philippines.

WebSideStory Expands In Latin America: San Diego-based WebSideStory, Inc., which tracks Internet site traffic, said it has opened an office in Miami to market its services to high-volume Web sites in Latin America.

The firm recently promoted its service at the InternetCoast ITEC trade show in South Florida. The convention is reputed to be the largest regional information technology event in South Florida with more than 100 exhibitors showcasing the latest Internet trends, technologies and services.

The company said it has already made some headway in the region, and signed agreements with such clients as Grupo Clarin, Bumeran.com, Loquesea.com, and MundoNick (the Latin American arm of Nickelodeon).

The move also follows on the company's entrance into Europe earlier this year via its office in Amsterdam.

- - -

SR 905 Gets More Funding: The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded $4.1 million for the expansion of State Route 905, which connects Otay Mesa with Interstate 805.

The project, a top priority for both the city and county of San Diego and a host of business organizations, is also one the state's highest transportation projects, according to Rep. Bob Filner, whose 50th Congressional District includes the project area.

The freeway connection would replace the current Otay Mesa Road that was expanded from four to six lanes this year, but is still overburdened by truck traffic.

The recently approved federal funds brings the total of public money tabbed for the project to $213.5 million, for a project estimated to cost $255 million, said a Filner spokesman.

Trade Winds: A half-day class in international business protocol is offered from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Nov. 29 at the World Trade Center The U.S./Mexico Plant Engineering & Maintenance Show runs Nov. 29 and 30 at the San Diego Convention Center.

Send any international and export news to mallen@sdbj.com.