The heads of six federal agencies are on the second half of an eight-city blitz to sell local businesses on how they can successfully leverage government export assistance to expand sales of U.S. goods and services in foreign markets and increase their bottom lines.
The agencies — the Commerce Department, Export-Import Bank of the United States, Overseas Private Investment Corporation, Small Business Administration, U.S. Trade and Development Agency and the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office — jointly created a half-day interactive seminar series to press their point at each stop. Their move is consistent with the Obama administration’s push for a more robust participation by small businesses in improving the economy.
Foreign trade accounted for more than 40 percent of U.S. economic growth between 2000 and 2008. However, while other major trading nations engage up to 15 percent of their small businesses in exporting, less than 1 percent of U.S. small businesses — just 240,000 of the country’s 26 million small businesses — currently export. “In difficult economic times, it is even more important for American industry to take advantage of every opportunity for export-driven growth,” President Obama declared during World Trade Week in May.
Under the banner “Exports Live! Real Deals, Real Profits,” the agency heads kicked off the seminar series at New York City’s Marriott Marquis hotel on Oct. 5, followed by similar sessions in Boston on Oct. 6, Miami on Oct. 26 and Houston on Oct. 27. Other sessions are scheduled for Detroit (Nov. 9), Chicago (Nov. 10), Los Angeles (Nov. 16) and Seattle (Nov. 17). The seminars review strategies and partnerships used by local small and medium-size businesses that have already discovered how to increase profitability through exporting. They feature presentations and question-and-answer sessions by successful small-business exporters that have benefited from export services and solutions provided by federal, state and local trade organizations. Representatives of these organizations attend the seminars and are available for one-on-one sessions with businessowners.
With 95 percent of the world’s consumers living outside of the United States, businesses that sell domestically only or to just one foreign market are reaching just a small share of potential customers, U.S. officials complain. “The vast majority of American companies aren’t currently accessing this global market because of perceived difficulties in successfully finding and financing foreign sales,” says Fred P. Hochberg, chairman and president of Ex-Im Bank, the nation’s export credit agency.
Hochberg attends each seminar, along with Commerce Secretary Gary Locke; Ambassador Ron Kirk, U.S. trade representative; SBA Administrator Karen Mills; Leocadia Zak, USTDA acting director; and Lawrence Spinelli, Ph.D., acting president of OPIC.
In June, Ex-Im Bank launched a quick-turnaround financing program for small exporters whose overseas customers need loans to buy their products. The Medium-Term Delegated Authority Program (MTDA) allows a select group of commercial banks to offer repayment terms of 180 days to five years on Ex-Im Bank-guaranteed loans to foreign buyers of U.S. capital goods without having to obtain prior federal approval. Exporters had long complained that the months-long wait for required approval on Ex-Im Bank-guaranteed loans gave a competitive advantage to exporters in countries with faster loan processing.
MTDA loans may be made for up to $10 million per individual transaction, or up to $100 million for aggregated transactions. Lenders certified for the program include Northstar Trade Finance of Houston, Texas; UPS Capital Business Credit, a subsidiary of United Parcel Service; Citibank N.A.; PNC Bank, Pittsburgh; and Frost National Bank, San Antonio, Texas.
For more information and to register for the nearest “Exports Live!” seminar, visit www.export.gov/exports_live/ , or call toll-free 888-966-2009.