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Exports drive growth for Hydro-Thermal Corp.

Exporting wasn’t new to Waukesha manufacturer Hydro-Thermal Corp. when it attended ExporTech for the first time in 2015. In fact, the company has been successfully shipping its products to foreign markets since 2000.

“This is a classic case of a small manufacturer that had several awards for its exporting but came to ExporTech to broaden that knowledge and develop an export expansion plan with a wider engagement of the leadership team,” claims Roxanne Baumann, director of global engagement for the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership (WMEP).

ExporTech, a program of the WMEP, is a customized, action-oriented export expansion strategy. Graduates of ExporTech have achieved sales increases averaging $900,000 within six to nine months after completing the program.

“It is an ever-evolving challenge to cultivate growth internationally, and our staff consistently and enthusiastically welcomes the opportunity,” Hydro-Thermal president and CEO Jim Zaiser said.

Hydro-Thermal, now a graduate of the ExporTech program, develops and manufactures hydroheaters used in a variety of industries to precisely and efficiently heat water and process fluids. Founded in 1932, Hydro-Thermal operates a manufacturing campus on Pilot Court in Waukesha that consists of three buildings, two of which are dedicated to production.

About 30 percent of Hydro-Thermal’s business is in foreign markets.

“For our product, there is no reason it should stay just inside the United States. It’s a product that can be applied in industries around the world,” Zaiser said. “Exporting allows us to grow and to diversify our economic efforts, so that when one country is doing poorly, we can rely on another. It provides overall stability.”

Exporting has created a path of success for the company and has been carried out through the dedication of its employees, Zaiser said.

“Every employee has made such a difference each and every day,” he said. “It is their continuous efforts, the time and the travel and being stuck in airports. I’m so proud of the team that has been rewarded for their successes.”

Hydro-Thermal received the 2016 Governor’s Export Achievement Award, which recognized its success in global business development.

The award honors businesses that have achieved significant growth or implemented innovative strategies in exporting.

Gov. Scott Walker said at that time that manufacturers like Hydro-Thermal “exemplify the type of success that many Wisconsin businesses are achieving by entering or expanding in overseas markets.”

Hydro-Thermal also won the award in 2011 and in 2014 captured the President’s “E” Award, created by executive order of the President of the United States in recognition of significant contributions in the effort to increase U.S. exports.

Exporting allows for crucial business diversification that often can soften the blow during a business downturn in a certain market.

“Our goal has been to get as diversified as possible throughout the world,” said Gary Bymers, international sales manager at Hydro-Thermal. “When you’ve got a presence on four or five continents, it helps mellow the peaks and valleys in different economies and markets. China might be doing poorly at a given time, but maybe South America has picked up that year.”

Hydro-Thermal management sets international sales growth goals of 10 to 15 percent per year.

“When I started about 11 years ago, we were at about $1 million in (international) sales,” Bymers said. “In the last couple of years, we have been over $5 million in international sales.”

Hydro-Thermal’s largest export market is China.

“It’s our biggest, for sure,” Zaiser said. “Being a net exporter to China, we feel we are doing our share to keep jobs here in the United States.”

Due in large part to its exporting efforts, Hydro-Thermal has created job security for its employees.

“We haven’t had to lay off anyone,” Zaiser said.

Quite the contrary. Employment at the company grew from 30 employees to nearly 100 over the past 12 years as it ramped up its exporting efforts.


Forward-thinking Wisconsin companies are taking advantage of the explosive growth seen in other parts of the world. Today, 95 percent of consumers are outside of the United States, and small and midsize Wisconsin companies are profiting from this global demographic.

ExporTech assists companies in developing a customized, action-oriented export expansion strategy. ExporTech graduates have achieved sales increases averaging $900,000 within six to nine months of completing the program. Each ExporTech session consists of three intense events scheduled approximately one month apart.

Coaching and assistance is provided between events. The next session is scheduled for Dec. 7, 2016; Jan. 11, 2017; and Feb. 22, 2017 at Waukesha County Technical College in Pewaukee.

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