Thirty-five outstanding small- or medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) took center stage at the President’s “E” Awards ceremony at the White House today. This morning, Commerce Secretary John Bryson  and Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Michelle O’Neill joined Senior Adviser to the President Valerie Jarrett to honor U.S. companies and organizations that have made significant contributions to increasing American exports. A total of 41 companies and organizations—the largest group to receive the award in the past twenty years—were honored at the ceremony, which marks the 50th annual “E” Awards.
Winners of the 2012 “E” award represent diverse communities across the country from places like Bakersfield, Calif., Baton Rouge, La., Bolingbrook, Ill., and Bradford, Pa. Of the honorees recognized at today’s ceremony, 35 are SMEs, 20 are manufacturers, and 17 are both.
“E” Award recipients contribute to the President’s National Export Initiative (NEI) goal of doubling U.S. exports in order to support American jobs. A key component of the NEI is ensuring that America’s small businesses have the tools, resources and relationships they need to make exporting a growing part of their business operations and creating jobs in the United States. Export-supported jobs accounted for 6.9 percent of total U.S. civilian employment in 2011. Moreover, a new trend points to SMEs accounting for a growing share of national exports. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, firms with fewer than 500 employees steadily raised their share of overall U.S. goods exports from 27 percent in 2002 to 34 percent in 2010–a seven percentage point increase over eight years. 2010 also saw a record 293,000 companies exporting, up from the 276,000 that exported during the financial crisis in 2009.
These are many ways that the Commerce Department is working to help small businesses export. For example, 85 percent of the companies assisted by Commerce’s U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service clients are small and medium businesses. Small businesses represented 81 percent of all trade mission participants from 2008 to 2011. The U.S. Commercial Service’s International Buyer Program also matches foreign buyers with U.S. exhibitors at U.S. trade shows—for SMEs with limited resources to travel abroad, this program provides an excellent opportunity to connect directly with foreign buyers and distributors. In addition, the Market Development Cooperator Program provides Federal financial and technical assistance to trade associations, chambers of commerce, and other industry groups that are particularly effective in reaching and assisting SMEs.
Recently, President Obama has taken additional actions to support small businesses, urging Congress to help small business owners and entrepreneurs create jobs by giving them a tax credit for new hires. This plan would help two million small businesses.
And just yesterday, the National Economic Council released a report  (PDF) that highlights the investments the administration has made to keep America’s small businesses and entrepreneurs moving forward and calls on Congress to do its part to make it easier for small businesses to grow and create jobs.
The President’s “E” Awards date back to World War II, when more than 4,000 “E Pennants” were presented to war plants in recognition of excellence in production. Twenty years later, in 1961, President Kennedy established the E-Awards as we know them today to recognize the top U.S. exporters. There are four categories of the President’s “E” Awards. This year, 23 companies were honored with the “E” Award for Exports for demonstrating a sustained increase in export sales over several years, and 10 received the “E” Star Award for Exports, which recognize previous “E” Award winners who have since shown three years of additional export growth. Four were honored with the “E” Award for Export Service for assisting and facilitating export activities; and four were honored with the “E” Star Award for Export Service, which recognizes previous “E” Award winners that have shown three years of continued support of exporters since first winning the “E” Award.