The day before a national government shutdown loomed over the heads of his office’s staff, a representative from the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Tennessee office presented an award to a business that got its start in Cleveland.
L.F. Deardorff & Sons Inc., which manufactures cameras in Athens, was named the state’s “Exporter of the Year” for the second year in a row.
Walter Perry III, the office’s district director, presented the award at the local SBA office at Cleveland State Community College on Monday.
“They are great exporters of a great product,” Perry said as he handed a trophy to business owners Barry and Monica Cochran.
The company manufactures modernized versions of view cameras, which encase film camera parts in pieces of polished wood joined together by accordion-style nylon bellows.
Though they may be considered old-fashioned by some, Barry said the cameras are still valued for the detail that can be maintained when blowing up photos to large sizes. He said such cameras were used by famous photographers like Ansel Adams.
Although the product itself was produced under the L.F. Deardorff & Sons name beginning in the 1900s, the company shut down in 1991 after it was sold.
The Cochrans were able to purchase the rights to produce cameras under the Deardorff name in 2009. The company then got its start in the Cleveland Bradley Business Incubator. The Cochrans recently began manufacturing from their personal property in Athens after “graduating” from the incubator.
Perry said the company was chosen as “Exporter of the Year” for a second time because of its track record for exporting its product, adding that exporting adds more to the country’s economy than importing.
The company ships to about 35 different countries per year on average, Barry said.
It has even shipped to countries that he said he had been previously unfamiliar with — like the small European country of Andorra.
More and more demand has come from countries in Asia and the Middle East where photography has become more popular, but digital cameras are more difficult to use, he added.
David Hudson, director of the TSBDC’s Cleveland office, said L.F. Deardorff & Sons was a good example of a small business that has managed to find success in exporting despite its size.
“Nationwide, we’re trying to push exports more and more,” Hudson said. “You don’t have to be Boeing or a major manufacturer to export.”