When a typhoon hit Cagayan de Oro in the Philippines a few months ago, it knocked out electricity and water.
Once power returned, a test atmospheric water generator was able to produce safe drinking water before the local water system was back on.
The water generator is something Green Focus, a company co-owned by Rocco Luongo of Richland and Wade Bodlovic of Spokane, is in the process of exporting to the Philippines.
It looks more like an espresso machine than what it is -- a dehumidifier made of medical-grade metals that filter and sterilize the water produced from humid air, Luongo said. There are three levels of filtration and circulation to keep the water clean.
But the machine, called G2 for Generation 2, allowed one of the company's testers to have safe water after the typhoon and to give some of that water to his neighbors, who had none, Luongo said.
Green Focus is one of about 235 businesses that received help from the Washington Small Business Development Center's new export program during its first year.
The export program started January 2011 as part of Gov. Chris Gregoire's statewide initiative to increase exports by 30 percent and have 5,000 state businesses receive $600 million in new export sales within five years.
Luongo said he and Bodlovic had already decided to export before they sought help from the Washington Small Business Development Center about six months ago.
They were finalizing distribution agreements for the atmospheric water generator when Luongo said they met Vern Jenkins, one of the four trade specialists hired by the state center for the new export program.
Jenkins was able to answer some of the tough questions Luongo said they had about exporting, such how to "navigate the ocean of paperwork and bureaucracy through both countries."
Green Focus is a new venture between Luongo, who owns Power Focus Engineering of Richland, and Bodlovic, who owns Green Foot Technologies, which helps companies find clean green technology professionals, with offices in Seattle, Spokane and Missoula, Mont.
Green Foot Technologies will act as the parent company, and is the company Luongo and Bodlovic will use for exporting. Green Focus is the brand for their exports, and will be the name used when selling overseas franchises.
Luongo said they will focus on exporting products that deal with water and clean energy generation.
Luongo and Bodlovic have about 35 employees and five are focused on the exporting work full time.
G2, developed by Atmospheric Water Generation International of Canada, is the first product Green Focus plans to export. It's a product Luongo said they found through Green Foot Technologies' search for employees for green technology companies.
Atmospheric Water Generation International is relocating its operations and production of atmospheric water generators to Spokane from Canada and Korea. That was attractive to Luongo and Bodlovic because they want to support clean green manufacturing in the Northwest.
And Luongo said they decided to focus on G2 because safe drinking water is the highest need in the Philippines.
"You can live ultimately without electricity, but you can't live without water," he said.
Water is available for the more affluent people in Manila, Luongo said. But those who aren't wealthy suffer.
Luongo said they are also developing larger units that would act almost like a town well. Then, a family would not be able to buy water from the machine instead of buying their own generator.
And the G2 is going to be redesigned to work off of solar power, he said. Currently, the model plugs into the wall.
They have six units being tested in the Philippines right now, and hope to start having them available for sale this summer.
They are also in the process of looking for investors, he said. They need to get an office and warehouse set up, and employees hired and trained to sell the machines.
Luongo said they are still working with Jenkins on business structure and finding financing.
That advice is offered at no cost to small businesses, said Terry Chambers, director of the Washington Small Business Development Center International Trade Program. That is the center's model -- to make sure that small businesses that may not be able to afford consultants can still get qualified help for free so they can continue to grow.
So far, companies that have received help from the program have brought in more than $1 million in new revenue and created or saved about five jobs, Chambers said.
The export program is paid for until the end of the year with grants from the state Community Economic Revitalization Board and the U.S. Small Business Administration.
While Chambers said they hope to come up with money to keep at least some of the trade specialists on staff, some of the center's other advisers are being trained in international trade.
Companies need as diverse a client base as possible, and 95 percent of the world market is outside the United States, he said.
Chambers said he is delighted with the success seen so far -- with businesses that have never exported before going from considering exporting to actually doing it.
-- Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; email@example.com