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Remarks at National Export Initiative Event, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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Friday, April 30, 2010

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Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke
Remarks at National Export Initiative Event
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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Thank you so much for inviting me to speak today. It is great to be here at the Penn Fishing Tackle Manufacturing Company to talk about something that's going to be a great driver of job creation in Pennsylvania.

Let me give a big thank you to Bill Sterback, and his staff at Penn Fishing Tackle for their incredible hospitality today. Penn Fishing Tackle has been a valued partner of the Commerce Department's Manufacturing Extension Partnership, which helps companies become more efficient, more productive and more competitive in the global economy. Recently, we provided some of the funding to help Penn retrain its workers in new lean manufacturing methods.

I’d like to also recognize a few of the terrific leaders whom I have had the great pleasure to work with on critical issues affecting Pennsylvania.

We are joined today by four people who know first-hand what exports mean for creating and sustaining good-paying jobs here at home—Governor Rendell, Senator Casey, Congressman Fattah, Congresswoman Schwartz and Mayor Nutter.

Governor Rendell knows the impact exports have on Pennsylvania’s economy—last year alone, Pennsylvania exported more than $28 billion of merchandise overseas.

Senator Casey has led a group of senators in support of the president’s National Export Initiative to double exports over five years, Congressman Fattah holds a seat on the power Appropriations Committee that will put the federal dollars behind this important initiative to make it possible, and Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz is also here today. Pennsylvania is lucky to have so many people in Washington—and here locally with leaders like Mayor Nutter—who understand and really champion helping American companies export.

I’d also like to thank some leaders of our regional export assistance centers for joining us. Joe Hanley, our Mid-Atlantic Regional Network Director, and Tony Ceballos, who runs our Philadelphia office – thank you for being here today.

And finally, I’d like to recognize two very important businesses who have successfully worked with our U.S. Export Assistance Center here in Philadelphia, and who are here today: Daedalus Innovations, and ATD American Company.

A couple months ago, the president signed an executive order launching the National Export Initiative or NEI, which instructed the federal government to use every available federal resource to help double American exports over the next five years and support two million jobs.

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.

Under the NEI, there is going to be more credit available for exporters, more government trade promotion and a sharper focus on knocking down the barriers that prevent U.S. companies from getting free and open access to foreign markets.

To put it another way: Prior to the NEI, export promotion may have been a “some of the time” focus for many U.S. cabinet agencies and departments.

The NEI makes it an “all-the-time focus.”

We’re going to have Agriculture Department employees in Pennsylvania educating farmers about export opportunities in Europe and Commerce Department trade specialists pounding the pavement in Beijing to find new customers for U.S. businesses.

The NEI is going to provide even more resources and focus on the Commerce Department's International Trade Administration (ITA)—which has a global network of trade specialists posted in 109 U.S. cities and at 128 U.S. embassies and consulates in 77 countries.

As part of the NEI, the president’s 2011 budget is going to provide new resources so that ITA can hire more trade specialists to help link U.S. businesses with buyers overseas.

ITA plans to bring on as many as 328 trade experts—mostly in foreign countries—to advocate and find customers for U.S. companies.

ITA is going to:

  • Put a special focus on increasing the number of small and medium-sized businesses exporting to more than one market by 50 percent over the next five years.
  • Increase their presence in emerging high-growth markets like China, India and Brazil; and
  • Develop a comprehensive strategy to identify market opportunities in fast-growing sectors like environmental goods and services, renewable energy, healthcare and biotechnology.

One of my favorite programs available through ITA is the Gold Key Matching Service, which leverages the talents of our commercial service staff to help American business expand into foreign markets.

If you’re an American firm and you want to sell your goods or services abroad, all you need to do is pick up the phone and call 1-800- USA-TRADE.

Commerce Department experts will then:

  • Conduct an international search to find potential agents or distributors for your unique business;
  • Contact potential overseas business partners;
  • And they will work with you to design and implement a market entry or expansion strategy.

Think of it as matchmaking for exporters. We'll keep searching for partners and customers for you until you find the right fit.

Pennsylvanian businesses that want to take advantage of these new services don’t have to look far. They can just visit Commerce’s regional export assistance center in Philadelphia, which has already written plenty of export success stories.

In the past year alone, Philadelphia’s export assistance center has worked with local businesses and has helped them generate contracts with foreign customers worth $142 million.

Take, for example, Solar Technology, an Allentown manufacturer of solar powered traffic control systems. Solar Technology knew it wanted to do business in the United Kingdom, and so it contacted the Commerce Department. Our Foreign Commercial Service offices in Philadelphia and in the UK worked with Solar and provided them with advice on ways:

  • To identify potential European buyers and distributors;
  • Discover contract opportunities with the UK government for the 2012 London Olympics; and
  • finally, we provided information on customs and payment regulations in the UK.

As a result of this tag-team effort, Solar Technology closed a deal with a UK company worth $230,000.

The Commerce Department and our Foreign Commercial Service are good at what we do. And we want more businesses to take advantage of what we've got to offer.

With traditional drivers of U.S. economic growth like consumer and business spending facing stiff headwinds, it has never been more important for our companies to increase their sales to the 95 percent of the world’s consumers who live outside the United States.

For all of America's economic strengths, we stand out among developed nations as one of the few whose government has not had a focused, comprehensive, and agile export strategy.

Partly as a result, only 1 percent of American companies export. Of those companies that do, 58 percent only send their goods and services to one market.

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.

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

It's an aggressive goal, but 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.

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

The National Export Initiative will do exactly that.