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Simple Steps to Expanding Your Business through Exports

Minority-owned firms employ nearly six million American workers and contribute one trillion dollars in annual economic output to the U.S. economy.

At the Department of Commerce and the Minority Business Development Agency we are dedicated to helping more minority-owned business leverage their competitive advantage and expand their business through exports. The most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau reveals how minority-owned firms employ nearly six million American workers and contribute one trillion dollars in annual economic output to the U.S. economy. This economic output includes significant exporting contributions. In fact, minority-owned firms are export leaders in 14 key industry sectors.

To celebrate World Trade Month we are kicking off a blog series to highlight valuable resources and information for minority businesses looking at exporting for the first time and firms looking to expand their existing exporting efforts. 

Here are six steps to start exporting:

Complete an export readiness self-assessment: Find out if you have what it takes to market your products or services into the global marketplace. Provide answers to nine questions and receive advice on your exporting potential.

Training and counseling: use online resources like webinars and training courses to learn the basics of exporting and increase your understanding of the exporting process. Access webinars and online courses from the International Trade Agency (ITA), U.S. Census Bureau Go Global Webinars, and the Small Business Administration (SBA).

Develop your Export Business Plan: Use the SBA Export Business Planner to work through the process of gathering information and setting SMART goals and objectives. The Export Business Planner will help your business explore exporting options.

Conduct Market Research: It is critical for you to find the best exporting prospects for your business success. The U.S. government has the latest information on market conditions around the world. You can also use the Trade Stats Express to identify potential markets.

Find Buyers: Leverage opportunities at the local, state, and federal government levels to meet potential foreign buyers. Use reverse trade mission hosted by the U.S. Trade and Development Agency or overseas trade mission hosted by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Many states government also host overseas trade missions check out your states business opportunities websites.

Investigate Export Finance Option: understanding the available grants, insurance and finance programs available to assist your firm as exporting options are critical to your exporting success. Start with federal resources at Export-Import Bank, Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and SBA Export Loans

Take your business to the next level and begin to go and grow globally. MBDA and our national network of more than 40 MBDA Business Centers are here to help. Contact a MBDA Business Center to learn more about how exporting can increase your bottom line.

Also, stay tuned to learn more about the next phase of the National Export Initiative –NEI/NEXT! 

Commerce in the Community: World Relief provides impactful entrepreneurship and job training programs for vulnerable populations at home and abroad

Commerce in the Community: World Relief provides impactful entrepreneurship and job training programs for vulnerable populations at home and abroad

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Commerce in the Community series highlighting the work of community leaders and organizations that are strengthening the middle class and providing ladders of opportunity for all Americans.

Below is an interview with Stephan Bauman, President and CEO of World Relief. Before coming to World Relief, Stephan served as Director of International Programs for World Hope International. He previously worked for Mercy Ships International directing programs and training for over 300 staff on the Anastasis, a hospital ship based in Africa. A Certified Public Accountant and minister, Stephen has also worked as a consultant for Anderson and Co. 

Q1: Tell us about World Relief. What is your mission and main focus? 

World Relief was founded in 1945 by the National Association of Evangelicals to provide humanitarian assistance in war-torn Europe. We have since evolved into an organization working in 14 countries around the world and in 25 cities in the United States to empower local churches to serve the most vulnerable.

Q2: How are you working to expand opportunity domestically and internationally? 

We believe in empowering the most vulnerable so that they can create their own solutions and meet their own needs. Through the power of Agri-business, Microfinance and Savings Groups, World Relief equips small business owners with the skills, capital and resources necessary to develop successful, self-sustaining businesses. We believe when given the tools to protect and leverage their financial assets, these entrepreneurs will be able to participate in the transformation of their local communities.

Secretary Pritzker Discusses Trade and Investment with Ghanaian President Mahama and Other Officials

President Mahama greets Secretary Pritzker on her first official visit to Ghana

Building on a strong bilateral relationship with Ghana, the United States is committed to partnering with the country as a beacon of stability and democracy in West Africa.

As part of that partnership, the United States is working to increase trade and investment, cornerstones of the Strategy toward Sub-Saharan Africa that President Obama announced in June 2012. On her trade mission to West Africa this week, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker is talking with Ghanaian leaders about the many opportunities available for U.S. businesses to partner with Ghana to help meet their energy development objectives.

This morning, Secretary Pritzker met with Minister of Trade and Industry Haruna Iddrisu. She discussed policies that would facilitate U.S. companies’ participation in developing Ghana’s energy sector and helping the country meet its goal of generating 5,000 megawatts of power by 2016.  Secretary Pritzker pointed out that the United States’ Power Africa initiative to double access to electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa aligns with Ghana’s broad goals to increase power generation capacity in the near term.

Secretary Pritzker also met with Minister of Finance Seth Terkper and discussed some of the challenges facing the business community in the current fiscal climate. Noting that the strong trade relationship between Ghana and the United States continues to grow, Secretary Pritzker highlighted some of the Commerce Department’s initiatives focused on expanding U.S.-Ghana trade. This week’s trade mission is an opportunity to build upon our two country’s strong trade relationship by facilitating introductions of U.S. companies eager to learn about the energy needs of Ghana.

Finally, in the afternoon, Secretary Pritzker met with Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama and discussed the strategic importance of strong U.S.-Ghanaian economic and commerce relations. Secretary Pritzker highlighted that U.S. companies have a lot to offer in terms of management and technical expertise, and capital that might prove to be very useful for Ghana. 

Secretary Pritzker and President Mahama briefly discussed the upcoming World Cup and the United States’ opening round match-up against Ghana. 

NOAA Kicks Off Hurricane Awareness Tour

NOAA Kicks Off Hurricane Awareness Tour

This week, NOAA hurricane experts will visit five U.S. Gulf Coast cities aboard a NOAA hurricane hunter aircraft to raise awareness about storm threats and the danger of being caught without a personal hurricane plan. The five-day tour begins today and advances NOAA's efforts to build a Weather-Ready Nation through outreach and effective communication on the steps necessary to prepare for a hurricane. 

National Hurricane Center Director Dr. Rick Knabb, along with senior hurricane specialist Daniel Brown and storm surge team leader Jamie Rhome, will travel with the NOAA crew when the aircraft visits Corpus Christi, Tex.; Houston, Tex.; New Orleans, La.; Tallahassee, Fla.; and Tampa, Fla. 

The hurricane hunter aircraft, also known as the NOAA WP-3D Orion turboprop aircraft, is used primarily by scientists on research missions to study various elements of a hurricane, flying through the eye of the storm several times each flight. The crew collects and transmits data by satellite directly to the National Hurricane Center so that forecasters can analyze and predict changes to the hurricane’s path and strength.  

The aircraft is part of our fleet of highly specialized research aircraft operated, managed and maintained by the NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations. The aircraft is piloted by officers of the NOAA Corps — one of the seven uniformed services of the United States — and based at the NOAA Aircraft Operations Center, located at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla. 

Staff from local emergency management offices and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, non-profit organizations such as the American Red Cross and the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, and several local NOAA National Weather Service forecast offices will be part of the team at each stop. 

Grow Your Business With U.S. Foreign Trade Data

Guest blog post by Omari Wooden, Senior Foreign Trade Advisor at U.S Census Bureau

In today's economy, businesses are continually looking for new ways to remain competitive and may not know there are resources available from the Census Bureau and the Commerce Department as a whole to help them understand international markets. Whether you need to evaluate your company's export potential or identify key foreign markets, you can make data-driven decisions through resources available from the Census Bureau.

Did you know that in 2013 American exports totaled $2.3 trillion, surpassing the previous record of $2.2 trillion in 2012? In 2013, our top three trading partners were Canada ($300B), Mexico ($226B) and China ($122B). However, between 2012 and 2013, the following countries had some of the greatest increases in imports from the United States: Monaco (1,818%), Brunei (254%), Equatorial Guinea (225%), and French Guinea (202%). U.S. businesses use our data to find the large markets, but they can also use this data to determine emerging markets.

On a monthly basis we release detailed information on over 9,000 export commodities and 18,000 import commodities. This information can be used to identify the global marketplace for your product and possible opportunities to expand your business. You can find more information here: http://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/Press-Release/current_press_release/

Another great resource is USA Trade Online, where you can easily explore trading trends and market outlook by product and country. You can also evaluate the current and historical trends of U.S. exports and imports. This level of market research can help you determine where there is a market for your product. Currently, we are offering free trials, so I would encourage you to register today at USA Trade Online.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Leads Energy Business Development Mission to West Africa

With more than 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa lacking access to electricity, the power development challenge is enormous. More than two-thirds of the population is without electricity, including more than 85 percent of those living in rural areas. According to the International Energy Agency, sub-Saharan Africa needs more than $300 billion in investments to achieve universal electricity access by 2030 – far beyond the capacity of any traditional development program.

Tomorrow, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker will leave for West Africa to lead 20 American companies on an Energy Business Development Mission with stops in Ghana and Nigeria. This mission will promote U.S. exports to Africa by helping American firms launch or increase their business in the energy sector in West Africa.  It will also help the African region develop and manage energy resources and systems, build out power generation and transmission, and distribution.  

Africa is home to seven of the ten fastest growing economies in the world, and helping U.S. business expand their presence in these African markets is a top priority for the Department of Commerce and the Obama Administration. There is tremendous potential for U.S. companies to sell their goods and services in countries like Ghana and Nigeria, which have energy needs that our firms have the goods, services, and expertise to address. Expanding trade and investment is a critical tool for economic growth and job creation in the U.S., and trade missions like this one are one way to help grow U.S. exports.

Acorn Energy, Inc., Joins Commerce Department Sponsored Trade Mission Because of Enormous Potential in West African Energy Market

Acorn Energy, Inc., Joins Commerce Department Sponsored Trade Mission Because of Enormous Potential in West African Energy Market

Guest post by Walter Czarnecki, President and COO of OmniMetrix, an Acorn Energy division.

On behalf of Acorn Energy, Inc., I am honored and excited to join US Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker on her upcoming West Africa Energy Business Development Trade Mission to Ghana and Nigeria. Acorn Energy is an energy technology investment group and holding company focused on M2M/Internet of Things remote monitoring technologies and includes four divisions: OmniMetrix, GridSense, DSIT and US Seismic Systems. Our technologies are deployed globally, including sites in Kenya, South Africa, Turkey and elsewhere, and we see West Africa as an important international market in which to expand and serve.

We have been following the vast potential for market growth in Ghana and Nigeria for each Acorn technology. Last month Nigeria surpassed South Africa to become Africa’s largest economy, yet Nigeria experiences near-daily blackouts and plans to invest $3.5 billion this year to improve its energy and electricity infrastructure. Likewise, grid failures are common and have persisted for decades. GridSense, our transformer and distribution network monitoring division, works with utilities globally to specifically address this problem, and we look forward to exploring how GridSense can help West African utilities make their networks more reliable.

When utility power is lost, backup generators come online, and Nigeria has nearly 60 million backup generators. OmniMetrix, the Acorn division that provides M2M remote monitoring and control for backup generators, is well positioned to increase the reliability and reduce failures across Nigeria’s backup generator fleet. Backup generators globally fail 10-15% of the time when called upon. It is now possible to diagnose and predict common problems that prevent backup generators from running when needed. We look forward to exploring how we can eliminate this problem in Ghana and Nigeria.

ExporTech™ Helps Manufacturers Develop Strategies for International Markets

ExporTech™ Helps Manufacturers Develop Strategies for International Markets

With more than 80 percent of the world market residing outside the U.S., there is clearly great opportunity for U.S. companies to find new customers and grow. But it is much easier to enter or expand into new global markets with partners who have resources and can help guide the way.

As part of the Commerce Department’s efforts to help U.S. companies increase exports, the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NIST MEP) and the International Trade Administration’s (ITA) U.S. Export Assistance Centers offer ExporTech™. Since 2007, ExporTech™ has assisted hundreds of businesses across the country to increase export sales, establish new partnerships, expand production facilities and hire more employees.

The program brings in partners such as District Export Councils, state trade offices and other federal, state, and local agencies to efficiently connect companies with a wide range of experts that help them navigate the export sales process.

Manufacturers can sign up for ExporTech™ through their local MEP center and, over the course of nine weeks, each company is guided through the development of an export strategy, both through group workshops and individual coaching. At the end of the program, the business has an export plan that is vetted by a panel of experts. Many participants generate export sales within six months of completing the program.

ExporTech™ builds connections to a team of export organizations that help participating companies find the right markets and implement their export growth plans. It amplifies the impact of other export programs, helping companies get the most out of tradeshows, ITA’s Gold Key services, country visits and trade missions.

To date, there have been more than 90 ExporTech™ programs in 28 states with more than 500 participating companies. Those companies have hired an average of five new employees, seen nearly $800,000 in average export sales increases, saved an average of $50,000 in costs and investments, and seen new and retained sales of $400 million.

ExporTech™ is just one example of the Commerce Department’s commitment to helping more American businesses export to more markets. Just yesterday, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker announced NEI/NEXT – a data-based, customer service-driven initiative that will build on administration-wide achievements under the National Export Initiative (NEI) to help all businesses reach the 95 percent of consumers who live outside the United States. To learn more about NEI/NEXT’s strategies to help U.S. businesses capitalize on new markets, visit http://www.trade.gov/neinext.

Commerce Department Supports Small Businesses

This week marks National Small Business Week – an opportunity to recognize the invaluable role entrepreneurs and small businesses play in America’s economy. It’s also a time to make sure our small businesses and entrepreneurs know about the services the Commerce Department – and entire federal government – has to offer.

U.S. small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and the Commerce Department is committed to supporting them.

Last year, Department-wide contracts with small businesses reached $3 billion, or approximately 40 percent of all contracts. And just a few weeks ago, Commerce awarded a contract to five small U.S. businesses: FCN, Force 3, Intelligent Decisions, Iron Bow, and Red River.

The new contract, which is for network equipment and maintenance, is expected to save up to $25 million in taxpayer dollars over the next five years. It also streamlines the procurement process, reduces the time needed to award hundreds of separate contracts to do the same tasks, and creates partners in companies that are capable of offering discounts and exceptional service.

In addition to saving money, these contracts support small businesses and the Department’s efficiency, enabling Commerce to focus more resources on our primary mission to support American businesses, help create jobs and strengthen the economy.

The Commerce Department is working to increase the number of small to medium-sized businesses that export by making it easier for them to access federal export assistance. That includes expanding access to small business trade financing and ensuring the most efficient delivery of services to small businesses.

For example, the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service, part of Commerce’s International Trade Administration, reported that 83 percent of the approximately 14,200 export successes they assisted with in fiscal year 2012 were achieved by small and medium-sized enterprises. Further, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker this week announced efforts to expand export opportunities for all American companies, including small businesses. This will help them businesses grow faster and help spread American ideas, innovation and value.

Commerce’s 11 other agencies also have a number of services available to small businesses. Just to name a few, the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) helps minority-owned businesses gain access to contracts and capital. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office helps entrepreneurs get their products to market more quickly. And the Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis produce statistics that help businesses make important decisions, like where to invest or build a new location.

To learn more about federal resources available to help small businesses, visit: http://www.sba.gov or http://business.usa.gov. Also check out www.sba.gov/nsbw and shop at a local small business today!

NOAA Provides Environmental Intelligence to Keep Goods Moving Along Our Marine Highways

Today's massive ships push the depth limit of many ports and harbors. NOAA tools —such as nautical charts, accurate positioning services, and ocean and weather observations—play a key role in ensuring that shipments move swiftly and safely along our marine highways.

By weight, 75 percent of U.S. international trade moves through the nation’s ports and harbors. Those ports support, directly and indirectly, more than 13 million American jobs.

NOAA provides environmental intelligence to support safe, efficient, and environmentally sound navigation through U.S. ports. NOAA produces the nation’s nautical charts, which provide essential navigation information such as water depths; locations of dangers to navigation; locations and characteristics of aids to navigation; anchorages; and other features.

NOAA also integrates ocean and coastal observations, data, science, and services to provide actionable information, thereby improving informed choices.  Good decisions today protect lives and property tomorrow.

The agency monitors, assesses, and distributes tide, current, and water level products and services. Positioning information from NOAA provides a highly accurate, precise, and consistent  framework to help mariners safely navigate around obstructions in our nation's busy waterways.

NOAA’s role warning coastal areas of hurricane threats is well known, but the agency also plays a significant role after the storm.  NOAA moves quickly to help reopen ports. Navigation response teams survey ports and channels, searching for submerged debris and other dangers to navigation. NOAA aerial photography helps the public, decision makers, and insurance adjusters assess the extent of storm damage.

In addition, NOAA's Physical Oceanographic Real-time System (PORTS®) provides accurate real-time oceanographic information, tailored to the specific needs of local maritime communities. Knowledge of the currents, water levels, winds, and density of the water can increase the amount of cargo moved through a port and harbor by enabling mariners to safely utilize every inch of dredged channel depth. For example, an economic study showed that the Tampa Bay economy receives more than $7 million a year in savings and direct income from PORTS®. A second study calculated $16 million a year in savings for the Houston-Galveston region. 

Learn more at http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/navigation/marinenav/