Government shutdown putting stress on area businesses

Kentucky businesses with international business concerned by shutdown

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - As the partial government shutdown continues its record setting run, WAVE Country companies selling goods outside the country are feeling the pressure.

Kenmark Optical creates eyeglasses found on faces all around the world.

Based in Louisville since 1972, the company designs for brands like Vera Wang, Penguin and Lilly Pulitzer. But the eyewear is manufactured in Asia, then shipped to the U.S. for international distribution. That makes the company vulnerable when furloughs of government employees can bring costly disruptions.

Susan Parker, the company’s Purchasing and Logistics Director, said the uncertainty has not affected their bottom line. But she is concerned that could change.

“We are watching to make sure none of our inbound products are held at the border due to furloughed employees, or that none of our product is held at the border for export for the same reason,” Parker said.

Darren Srebnick, Chief Trade Officer of the World Trade Center of Kentucky, said the shutdown resulted in the furloughs of 86 percent of employees at the Department of Commerce, impacting government licensing and inspections and chilling state exports of goods ranging from bourbon to technology.

“If you do not have an export license for certain products, you can’t actually export your products,” Srebnick said. “So imagine a sale of a million dollars and you are not able to execute that sale, is your buyer going to continue to work with you?”

This strikes are the heart of a company’s ability to get its goods out of the country.

And the potential long term impacts are particularly troubling. That means a company here could be losing customers overseas that will be very difficult to get back.

In the case of Kenmark Optical, the uncertainty includes the Food and Drug Administration.

If furloughs happen there, the company may not be able to get required approval for its eyewear. That hasn’t happened yet.

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