U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke traveled to New Orleans, La. today for the third stop of New Markets, New Jobs: The National Export Initiative Small Business Outreach Tour. Locke was joined by New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Export-Import Bank Board Member Diane Farrell.
Locke delivered keynote remarks  at the event, where he spoke about the administration’s efforts to support President Obama’s National Export Initiative  (NEI), which aims to double U.S. exports in five years in support of several million new jobs. The NEI enhances the U.S. government’s trade promotion efforts, increases credit to businesses looking to export, and continues to improve efforts to remove trade barriers for U.S. companies in foreign markets.
Locke also announced the department’s CommerceConnect  Gulf Coast initiative to support economic development following the BP/Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and highlighted a forthcoming announcement from the Department’s Economic Development Administration of grants to the region totaling $1.85 million. Cross-trained CommerceConnect staff – in collaboration with state and local partners – can assist Gulf Coast businesses no matter where they are in their life cycle, whether just getting off the ground or looking to expand into overseas markets, providing a one-stop connection to business assistance that can help firms compete in the global economy.
Announced on the one-year anniversary of the NEI, the New Markets, New Jobs tour is an interagency, multi-city outreach campaign spearheaded by the Commerce Department, designed to help connect small- and medium-sized businesses with the resources they need to sell more of what they make overseas. Only 1 percent of U.S. companies export, and 58 percent of those companies export to only one country. In a growing global marketplace where 95 percent of the world’s consumers reside outside our borders, U.S. companies and the economy stand to benefit from selling more of their products and services abroad. But breaking into new markets overseas still presents many hurdles to America’s small- and medium-sized businesses: the lack of readily available information about exporting and market research; challenges in accessing export financing; and strong competition from foreign companies and governments.
New Markets, New Jobs kicked off in February in Minneapolis, Minn., and made its second stop in Los Angeles in March. New Orleans will be followed by Wilmington, Del. in May. The Small Business Administration, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Export-Import Bank of the United States, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are all participating in the outreach tour.
Businesses from the New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner metropolitan area exported more than $10 billion worth of goods in 2009, making them the 19th largest metro area exporter nationally. Goods exports from the New Orleans customs district rose 20 percent ($57.0 billion to $68.2 billion) from 2009 to 2010.
Photo: Locke recognizes Donald van de Werken, Director, New Orleans U.S. Export Assistance Center, for 20 years of government service as Mayor Mitch Landrieu looks on (credit: New Orleans World Trade Center).