You don’t need a boat to go where most small businesses export. China’s economy may get a lot of our press, but our neighbors, Canada and Mexico, get a lot more of our exports. Total U.S. exports of goods to Canada and Mexico in 2009 were $154.8 billion and $116.4 billion, respectively, while exports to China were $65.6 billion.
The International Trade Administration’s recently released Small & Medium-Sized Exporting Companies: Statistical Overview, 2009  finds 275,843 exporters in 2009. Of this number, 269,269 or 97.6 percent were small businesses. But small businesses only accounted for 32.8 percent or $308 billion of the total export revenue in 2009.
For both small and large exporters, most of the exports came from the manufacturing and wholesale trade industries, which is not surprising considering the data does not cover services exports. These two industries combined represented about 85 percent of exporting value and 60 percent of the exporting businesses.
How to grow U.S. exports? The International Trade Administration  notes that increasing the number of exporting firms is not the only strategy. About 60 percent of small exporters only traded with one market. You could argue that firms that have already figured out how to overcome exporting barriers in one country are a better bet to increase the value of exports to other nations than firms looking to overcome the initial trade hurdles.
Later this summer the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners will release business owner characteristics information on goods and services exporting.