The Times West Virginian

June 16, 2013

Backbone Security part of state record-breaking export effort

By Jessica Borders
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — A Marion County business continues to be honored year after year for its success in exporting to new markets.

Backbone Security in Fairmont was among the 52 West Virginia companies that Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, the West Virginia Export Council and the West Virginia Development Office recently acknowledged for expanding their business to new parts of the world.

The awards presentation was held in Charleston at the State Capitol on June 6.

“West Virginia’s world-class workforce produces quality goods and services that compete in marketplaces across the world,” Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said in a statement. “And each time, a company builds a new relationship through international trade their business grows, creating more jobs for our people.

“I congratulate our companies who are reaching across great distances to forge these productive relationships. I encourage small- to mid-size West Virginia businesses to call on the services of the West Virginia Development Office International Division to learn how they too can expand their business and succeed in the global market.”

The businesses were awarded the Governor’s Commendation for International Market Entry, which is a wooden placard with a certificate for entering into new international markets in the past year. The award frames the currency of the new country or countries where the company successfully exported.

“The presentation is based on the tradition of displaying the first dollar a business earns,” a news release stated.

West Virginia’s exports in 2012 totaled $11.3 billion, surpassing 2011’s record performance of $9 billion. The state saw a 25 percent increase in exports compared to the previous year, and also beat the 4.6 percent growth rate that the United States experienced. In fact, this was the third year in a row that West Virginia’s exports climbed to an all-time high.

This year’s number of winners — 52 — of the Governor’s Commendation for International Market Entry is a new record for West Virginia. The previous record for the state was 49, according to the West Virginia Development Office’s International Division. Of the companies that were honored this time, 16 were first-time recipients of the award.

“West Virginia exporters play a significant role in the state’s economy,”

Stephen Spence, director of the West Virginia Development Office International Division, said in a prepared quote. “Recognizing the contributions of small- and medium-sized West Virginia companies to our economy is a priority of the West Virginia Development Office International Division.

“Marking the first export sale to a new country is an important business milestone, almost as important as the very first dollar a company earns. It takes commitment and calculated risk to enter new international markets. Acknowledging and encouraging that success is essential to the continued growth of West Virginia’s economy.”

Exporting is a huge part of Backbone Security’s business. The company has received the Governor’s Commendation for International Market Entry award for the last six years in a row, said Jim Wingate, vice president of Backbone Security and director of the Steganography Analysis and Research Center (SARC).

The business, located in Fairmont at the Mountain Gate Park off of U.S. Route 250 South, made its first sale last year to a customer in Azerbaijan and was recognized by the state for expanding into this new market. Technical director Chad Davis and Justin Thorn, an intern from Fairmont State University, attended the awards ceremony in Charleston.

“It feels great,” Wingate said. “We’re really happy to be receiving the award and contributing to the governor’s goal in West Virginia to expand the export revenue for businesses throughout the state, and it helps raise the credibility for the state in terms of the quality of the small businesses in the high-tech industry.”

Backbone Security was incorporated on Sept. 11, 2000, he said. In addition to its office in Fairmont, the company also has a location in Stroudsburg, Pa. It has a total of 10 employees — five in each location.

The business predominantly does two kinds of work.

Wingate explained that the office in Stroudsburg, Pa., focuses on Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard (DSS) compliance assessments.

The payment card industry requires retailers that accept credit cards to have periodic assessments performed to verify that they are handling their customers’ credit cards securely, and Backbone Security does that as an Approved Scanning Vendor through the PCI Security Standards Council.

The Fairmont location concentrates on steganography analysis, research and development, he said. Backbone Security has turned its research into commercial products, like digital forensics tools and a network security appliance, that it sells not only in the United States but around the world.

The company began exporting in 2006 and has sold its software to 33 countries during the last seven years. It probably wouldn’t be in operation today if not for exporting, which makes up 80 to 90 percent of its sales, Wingate said.

While Backbone Security hasn’t yet made a sale into a new country in 2013, it has some leads and hopes to continue expanding, he said.

“We are a very unique businesses,” Wingate said. “There is nobody else in the world doing the type of work that we are doing.” 

Email Jessica Borders at jborders@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @JBordersTWV.