During President Obama’s January 2012 State of the Union Address, the president discussed progress of the National Export Initiative. The program, begun in 2010, aims to double America’s exports by 2014. To help reach this goal, the Obama administration added 20 percent to the Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration budget, which now totals $540 million. The administration also increased the budget of the U.S. Export-Import Bank from $4 billion to $6 billion.
This is a commitment that is important to small businesses. Only about 8 percent of America’s 27.9 million small businesses export goods or services; and of those that export goods, 58 percent export to only one country.
The opportunity is clear. At the Nashville Chamber of Commerce Business Summit in March, former U.S. Deputy Commerce Secretary Dennis Hightower cited an impressive figure: for every $188,000 in exports, one new American job is created. The Commerce Department data from 2008 also show that one out of 20—or 6 million American jobs—depend on manufactured exports. Export-related jobs also pay an estimated 13 to 18 percent more than the U.S. average. This is important because it is estimated that 95 percent of the world purchasing market resides outside of these United States.
So why aren’t more small businesses exporting? I think it’s because they simply don’t know where to start. I recently attended the Gulf States Alliance 2012 Annual Export Conference in Biloxi, Mississippi, and learned more about the ins and outs of exporting than I had ever known. Presentations were made by several agencies, all geared toward making the leap to exporting as easy as possible. The presenters included representatives from the SBA’s Office of International Trade, the Commerce Department’s Commercial Service and Export Assistance Centers, and the Mississippi Development Authority. Consular officials from Canada and several Caribbean and Latin American countries also presented.
I never knew that so much assistance is available for small businesses that are considering exporting.
So there you have it: Make some phone calls, send some emails, and make a plan to start increasing your company’s sales and profits by exporting. Here’s where to start: