The state’s Market Access Grant program has provided Dale Black, President, Black Knight/Gamma Fishing, the opportunity to showcase his company’s products at angling trade shows around the world.[/caption]
Editor’s Note: The following is another in a series of stories about the commonwealth’s Market Access Grant program.
OIL CITY – When Dale Black heard the news, he was as excited as a fisherman who just landed the biggest catch of his life: The company who makes Gamma fishing lines was reportedly going to divest itself of its fishing division.
An avid fisherman, Black was elated that he might finally land the biggest catch of his life as the proprietor of his own fishing-oriented business.
“I always have used Gamma fishing line and I always wanted to get into the fishing industry,” Black said. “I had heard that they might be for sale, so I called them several times over a couple of months and they kept saying the company is not for sale, so I put that dream to rest and figured I’d become a professional bass fisherman.”
Then, while returning from a fishing competition in Virginia with a local angling writer, a conversation about that product line led to a discussion about Gamma’s future. Black Knight/Gamma Fishing is a manufacturer of high-end fishing lines.
“He told me that they were going to be put up for sale and that was on April 26, 2010, which I remember because April 26 is my birthday,” Black said. “That whole seven-hour drive home from Virginia, I was nearly bouncing out of the car thinking, ‘Oh, what if, what if.’ We made contact with Gamma Industries, finalized the deal in November 2010, and moved everything up here (from Pittsburgh) by Thanksgiving.”
Black’s passion for fishing, as well as participation in the Department of Community and Economic Development’s Office of International Business Development’s (OIBD) Market Access Grant program (MAG), has helped Black Knight/Gamma Fishing cast its line into new international markets.
The Pennsylvania MAG Program is a collaborative effort between Team Pennsylvania Foundation and OIBD to encourage innovative use of funds to meet the specific international marketing needs of small- and mid-sized Pennsylvania companies to enhance their capability to increase export sales.
Black has used a MAG grant to travel to fishing shows in Australia to see if he can get vendors and dealers to take a nibble at his product line.
“What we’ve found with shows is that the first year, the dealers notice you, but they don’t always pick you up,” Black said. “Year two, they put the face to your business. Year three is when the larger chain stores pick up your line. We are pretty sure we are going to get the big chains on board with us, and when that happens, that can be put back on the MAG program.”
Black added his company has recently hooked two international clients, one in Zimbabwe and the other in Great Britain.
“About 35 percent of our business is international,” Black said about his company, which has two divisions, Gamma and Frog Hair (fly fishing).
Black said he is grateful for the assistance his company has received through the World Trade PA program and its local economic development partners at the Northwest Commission.
“For a small company like us, the state’s export assistance really allows us to lessen our (marketing) workload,” Black said. “The program criteria require us to have a dog in the fight, a stake in the game. When you go on these trips, you are not going on vacation. It has also really helped us get to Australia and take the required steps to make inroads into that market.”
Black said he is working to lure other countries to his firm with prospects in Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and countries across Asia.
“I love my job. I love this industry,” Black said. “It also helps that we have the best product on the market.”