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Remarks at "Advocacy Wins" Event, Baltimore, Maryland

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

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Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke
Remarks at “Advocacy Wins” Event
Baltimore, Maryland

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Hello everyone. It is great to be here in Baltimore, and to be visiting one of the iconic companies in the Atlantic region.

Most companies see the great recession of 2008-2009 as the most calamitous event they’ve ever had to endure.

But not Ellicott Dredges. You've been here for 125 years—long enough to help build the Panama Canal and to weather the Great Depression and two world wars. You have seen ups—you have seen downs.

But you are still here, surviving, even thriving in an unbelievably difficult environment.

Whenever I see a successful company like Ellicott, I always ask myself the same question:

  • How can we replicate this?
  • How can we write more of these success stories across America so we can put people back to work and get our economy firing on all cylinders again?

Well, the first thing a company might want to do is to try making the best dredges in the world—although it looks to me like Ellicott has already got that market covered.

But there’s another lesson companies can learn from Ellicott no matter what business they're in.

They can start selling their goods and services to the 95 percent of the world’s consumers who live outside the United States.

Since 2006, Ellicott has almost doubled its workforce to over 200 employees—and that growth can be almost entirely attributed to the increase in exports.

And I'm proud to say that the Commerce Department and other federal agents have played an important supporting role.

Ellicott has begun exporting to Iraq, the Philippines and Bangladesh with help from Jeanne Thompson, a trade specialist at Commerce’s local Export Assistance Center.

With financing assistance from the Export-Import bank, Ellicott has been able to do deals in Nigeria, Mexico, Malaysia and Argentina.

There is no reason why thousands of other companies throughout the United States can't do exactly what Ellicott has done.

I am here today to say the Obama administration is ready to do more to help.

A few weeks ago, President Obama announced the National Export Initiative (or NEI), which aims to double American exports over the next five years and support 2 million jobs here at home.

This initiative is unprecedented.

Here’s what it will mean to you: More products shipped to buyers overseas means companies in Baltimore and across the country will have to make more goods and services to meet that demand, and that means those companies will have to hire more people.

There have, of course, been previous attempts by the U.S. government to elevate the importance of exports. But what sets the NEI apart is that this is the first time the United States will have a government-wide export-promotion strategy with focused attention from the president and his cabinet.

This initiative was designed with one overriding goal in mind: to get people back to work in jobs that provide security, dignity and sense of hope for the future.

The type of jobs that are provided by Ellicot Dredges.

For much of this last decade, America’s economic growth was built on a speculative mania that enriched a select few while leaving many Americans out in the cold.

Since 2000, most families have seen their wages stagnate or decline, while the necessities of life like health care and tuition skyrocketed.

The National Export Initiative will help build a stronger economic foundation and allow us to return to the type of sustainable growth that not long ago helped build the strongest middle class in history.

With the NEI, American businesses that want to export—especially small- and medium-size enterprises—are going to have a more vigorous partner in the U.S. government.

The NEI is going to impact a whole array of issues that affect our ability to export, but we’re fundamentally focused on three things:

Number one is a more robust effort by this administration to expand its trade advocacy in all its forms. That means:

  • Educating U.S. companies about opportunities overseas
  • Directly connecting them with new customers and
  • Advocating more forcefully for their interests in contracting processes that are increasingly being influenced by political factors

The National Export Initiative will funnel $132 million to the Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration (ITA), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to educate U.S. farmers and businesses about opportunities overseas and directly connect them with new customers.

Number two is improving access to credit in the wake of the financial crisis, especially for small- and medium-sized businesses that want to export.

In particular, the president has called upon the Export-Import Bank—which enables critical financing when private banks are unwilling or unable—to increase it’s financing available for small- and medium-size businesses from $4 billion to $6 billion over the next year.

And number three is continuing the rigorous enforcement of international trade laws to help remove barriers that prevent U.S. companies from getting open and fair access to foreign markets.

The American people need to feel confident that when we sign an agreement that gives foreign countries the privilege of free and fair access to our domestic market, we are treated the same in their countries.

These are the broad strokes of the National Export Initiative.

As I said earlier, this National Export Initiative drives ambitious goals: a doubling of exports in five years supporting 2 million jobs.

These challenging times demand nothing less.

With millions of Americans out of work, and our competitors in Europe and Asia increasingly chasing the same business opportunities that we are, we don't have the luxury to be passive.

There has never been any question that American companies make goods and services that are desired all over the world. Ellicott Dredges is a testament to that.

The federal government just has to do a better job connecting the foreign consumers that want our stuff with the U.S. companies who make it.

The National Export Initiative will do exactly that, and in the years ahead will help empower thousands of companies just like Ellicott Dredges.

Thank you again for having me. . . . I'm happy to answer your questions.