The Washington Post

For the 99 percent of businesses who don’t export...

Only 1 percent of America’s businesses export. That was the stunning figure out of the Exporting for Growth forum at the Washington Post Oct. 14. We invited small businesses leaders interested in starting or enlarging an export business to attend and convened experts to give them advice on how to begin. Where do you go for financing? Where can you get help creating websites in foreign languages? Who can give advice for which countries would be smartest to market a particular U.S. product or service to?

The U.S. Export Assistance Centers (part of the Commerce Department’s U.S. Commercial Services), the U.S. Export-Import Bank, and the Small Business Administration all have significant operations to help.

U.S. Commercial Service, alone, has a network of export and industry specialists in more than 100 U.S. cities and over 80 countries worldwide to counsel and assist small business in exporting.

President Obama has challenged industry to double exports in five years. It’s all about creating jobs. If businesses expand whom they sell to, they make more money, grow their business, earn more profits and can hire more people.

In challenging economic times, a growing number of businesses realize it’s no longer enough to rely on the American consumer – which 99 percent of businesses based here have done. It’s a global, connected world and there are billions of buyers out there – from the growing middle classes in Brazil and China – to the many, many people around the world who like the “Made in the USA” label.

Marie Johns, the deputy administration of the Small Business Administration and one of the speakers Oct. 14th, said that while only 1 in 100 American businesses export their products or services, 1 in 8 European businesses do. And, that doesn’t mean that a French company is simply selling next door to Spain – 1 in 8 European businesses are selling outside of Europe.

Drew Greenblatt, president and owner of Marlin Steel in Baltimore, has found huge success in exporting and sends his wire baskets and sheet metal fabrications to 35 countries. He said that Obama’s goal of doubling exports is “very attainable.” If 41 percent of Germany’s GDP comes from exports and 28 percent of Canada’s GDP is derived from exports, he thought America could do better than earning 11 percent of GDP from selling American products and services abroad. If U.S businesses make a concerted effort to increase the exports, Greenblatt said, “that can kill the recession.” And, he said, it will ensure that more Americans earn a paycheck.

Mary Jordan is a national correspondent for the Washington Post covering the 2016 presidential campaign. She served as the co-bureau chief of the Post’s London, Mexico and Tokyo bureaus, and was the head of content of Washington Post Live, which organizes forums and debates.


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