Guest blog post by Assistant Secretary for Trade Promotion and Director General for the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service Suresh Kumar 
I’m proud to be speaking at the 30th District Export Council Conference  (DEC), in Las Vegas, Nevada. We have more than 40 DECs represented from across the country at the conference this year. The DECs are comprised of business leaders from around the country who are nominated by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Commercial Service (often in consultation with other DEC members and local partner organizations) and appointed by the Secretary of Commerce. The DECs provide guidance and mentoring to U.S. businesses looking to export, and work closely with the U.S. Commercial Service, referring these businesses to our network of U.S. Export Assistance Centers. By supporting firms in their local communities which are looking to progress from their first international business plan to their first export sale, DEC members empower the U.S. Commercial Service in our mission of broadening and deepening the U.S. exporter base.
Nationwide, there are 59 DECs which include the expertise of 1500 exporters and export service providers throughout the United States, who volunteer their time to promote numerous trade related activities. DECs also create seminars that make trade finance both understandable and accessible to small exporters, host international buyer delegations, design breakthrough guides to help firms export, put exporters on the Internet and help build export assistance partnerships to strengthen the support given to local businesses interested in exporting. As such, the DECs are critical to our effort in promoting our country's economic growth and supporting new and higher-paying jobs for their communities.
What we have done to increase exports this year is impressive. With support from DEC members, in FY 2011, the U.S. Commercial Service counseled thousands of businesses, and helped facilitate tens of billions of dollars in U.S. export sales—representing a 58 percent increase in the dollar volume of U.S. exports the U.S. Commercial Service facilitated over the previous fiscal year. And as we celebrate our 30 year relationship, our continued collaboration with the DECs provides the U.S. Commercial Service with the ongoing support needed to grow exports. These grassroots efforts are what drive the high-level of cooperation between the DECs and the U.S. Commercial Service. For example, one such program, Export University, brought together the expertise of DEC members, industry, and the U.S. Commercial Service to provide exporting seminars to small and medium-sized businesses in Florida. The success of Export University there grew to 13 other DECs across the country to the benefit of hundreds of American small and medium-sized exporters. Both new and experienced SMEs are gaining key skills to expand their international sales and understanding of the complexities involved to enter new markets. This program is invaluable and provides an example of creative ideas and synergy between the DECs and the U.S. Commercial Service.
Together, we are working to support President Obama’s National Export Initiative  (NEI). Announced in 2010, the NEI calls for the doubling of U.S. exports by the end of 2014. With overall exports growing at 16percent for the first six months of this year, we continue to be on track to reach the NEI goal by the end of 2014. To keep on track, however, we must look to the future for creative ideas that educate and assist U.S. businesses that are expanding their businesses overseas and can lead them to the many opportunities that exist through exporting. With a focus on results and a focus on jobs, we must provide our SMEs with the tools needed that can mobilize our economy and create more jobs at home.
Through our strong partnership with the DECs across the country, we will continue to think of new ways to reach U.S. businesses looking for opportunities overseas and help their businesses and the U.S. economy grow.