Sales to the US are driving export growth for a renowned and historic Birmingham manufacturer.
Acme Whistles exports to 119 countries, including the fast-growing BRIC nations, but its biggest market remains the US.
Almost a quarter of annual sales for The Jewellery Quarter firm, worth around £2.5 million, are in the States.
Customers include the New York Philharmonic, who needed cuckoo and nightingale sounds for a performance of Haydn’s Toy Symphony.
The Boy Scouts of America, New York Police Department and American football umpires all deploy whistles from Acme.
The Beach Boys used Acme sirens for some of their more whimsical sounds, such as in the Brian Wilson song Heroes and Villains.
An army of American pet owners use its “silent” dog whistle.
Simon Topman, chief executive of Acme Whistles, said: “It’s still the world’s biggest and richest market.
“People talk about the Chinese economy overtaking the US, that’s just measuring the GDP.
“In Brazil you have 200 million people with western European levels of disposable income which is still less than the US.”
The Acme orderbook for the European continent is not far behind the US, but Mr Topman sees transatlantic trade growing as the US economy picks up while many European markets remain mired in recession.
“I think the US market will get back to growth and we will enjoy our little bit of that growth,” he said.
“I can’t see any prospect of real growth in Europe for many years.”
Founded in the 1870s, Acme made the first Metropolitan police whistle in 1883 and now manufactures 83 kinds of whistle.
When it started the British Empire was at its peak and the company was able to set up a distribution network in captive overseas markets.
“As time has gone on we’ve added other strings to our bow,” he said.
“There’s nothing like the personal touch and using UKTI to get some introductions.
“Industry trade shows are advantageous too.”
The latest data appears to back up Mr Topman’s prediction.
Exports of British goods to non-EU countries rose by ten per cent in March to £13.1 billion, overtaking those to the EU, which stagnated at £12.6 billion.
Exports to the US did especially well, up 21 per cent on the month before.
Monthly trade data can be erratic, but longer-term figures show an even more dramatic shift away from Europe. In 2002, around 62 per cent of the UK’s exports went to the rest of the EU. In 2012 that had dropped to 51 per cent.
Business groups expect exports to the US to grow in terms of goods and of harder-to-measure services, such as banking and insurance.
Manufacturers’ organisation EEF forecasts that the eurozone economy – already in its longest recession since the single currency launched in 1999 – will shrink again this year while the US will grow by 2.5 per cent.
The eurozone is the only area in the world where more members see business falling rather than growing.
In the US, manufacturers are seeing solid demand in many sub-sectors, particularly aerospace, mechanical equipment and transport.
The US push to be a net exporter of energy is driving up demand for oil exploration and extraction equipment, and that, too, is benefiting Birmingham firm BSA Machine Tools.
More than 50 per cent of BSA’s exports are oil-related, such as the lathes it sells to companies in Houston.
Steve Brittan, managing director of BSA, concedes that there are plenty of competitors around the world making lathes, including in the US, but says British manufacturers have a particularly good reputation.
“We have great technology here, and lots of things have been invented and discovered here, from the internet to DNA,” he said.
“We are well-respected.”
Acme, which turns over about £9 million and employs 70 staff, tells a similar story.
“In Thailand some whistles are selling at a tenth of our price but they are still buying ours,” Mr Topman said.
“The reason is quality.”
He also puts the company’s export growth down to its new inventions, which have included the first lifejacket whistle, developed in the 1940s, and the “world’s most powerful whistle”, used by officials at the London 2012 Olympics.
“We are the guys who made whistles for the Titanic in 1912, but we are also the guys who made the Tornado 2000 that was used in the Olympics in 2012,” said Mr Topman.