Wednesday the White House Rural Council held its first "Made in Rural America" regional export forum with business owners and local leaders in Canonsburg. The one day meeting was hosted by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack delivered the keynote address.
The forum kicks off a series that will include four additional forums to be headlined by Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, Small Business Administration Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet, Export-Import Bank Chairman Fred Hochberg, and United States Trade Representative Michael Froman.
The series of forums are part of the Obama Administration's Made in Rural America Export and Investment Initiative that was created earlier this year by President Obama to help rural businesses and leaders take advantage of new investment opportunities and access new markets abroad. This first forum will provide business-to-business learning opportunities and federal, state, and local expertise for rural business and community leaders. The next forum, hosted by the Delta Regional Authority and keynoted by Secretary Pritzker, will be held in the Memphis region on July 18.
At the forum, the Obama Administration unveiled a dedicated web portal for rural businesses considering export opportunities available on BusinessUSA.gov. With over 5 million page views to date, BusinessUSA.gov allows U.S. businesses to search aggregated business-related information and resources from 24 federal agencies, from starting a business to financing to exporting. Now with a news feed specifically highlighting relevant export opportunities and headlines plus a forthcoming quick search tool for rural businesses preparing to export, BusinessUSA.gov is poised to help rural producers, manufacturers and other businesses successfully enter the export market.
"In 2013, exported food and agricultural products topped a record breaking $144 billion and supported nearly one million jobs," said Vilsack. "With the success of agricultural exports, we know that other rural businesses such as manufacturers, service providers, and value-added producers have much to offer the world market and the ability to grow and create jobs when their exports are increased. Working together we can help grow rural America's economic potential."
"Exporting goods and services helps U.S. businesses grow faster, hire more employees, pay higher wages, and helps spread American ideas, innovation and values," said Pritzker. "The U.S. Commerce Department is proud to be a partner in the Made in Rural America Export and Investment Initiative, which works to ensure our rural businesses – from light manufacturers to service providers – benefit from exporting. The "Made in Rural America" partnership advances our new NEI/NEXT initiative and is in clear alignment with Commerce's "Open for Business Agenda" which helps more companies export to more markets, reaching the 95% of customers that live outside the United States."
"By empowering rural businesses to look beyond America's borders and sell their goods overseas, the Export-Import Bank is helping to strengthen rural communities and create and sustain jobs here in the United States," said Export-Import Bank Chairman Fred Hochberg. "The Made in Rural America export forums will help more rural businesses and workers learn about and take advantage of the tools the Export-Import Bank has to offer."
ARC Federal Co-Chairman Earl F. Gohl noted that with Appalachia' s enterprises having the opportunity to expand their markets and sell internationally, "ARC was pleased to host this first 'Made in Rural America' export forum in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. With all of the export assistance that is now available, including the tools laid out at this forum, no rural business should ignore the opportunities that are available to grow its own export market."
"BusinessUSA is pleased to support the 'Made in Rural America Export and Investment Initiative' and has begun the process of adding new content to the already extensive export resources on BusinessUSA.gov. Rural businesses and entrepreneurs will want to stay tuned to http://business.usa.gov/rural-exporting as we will also be developing a new online tool to help them quickly discover and access Government-wide information and services specifically geared to support rural exporters," said Dennis Alvord, Executive Director of BusinessUSA.
Exporting companies grow faster, employ more workers, and pay higher wages than non-exporting companies. Smaller and midsize companies can benefit exponentially by entering the export market. According to the Department of Commerce's International Trade Administration, Pennsylvania has over 13,000 small and medium size business exporters, representing 90% of all exporters in the state. In 2012, These businesses exported more than $17 billion in goods.
Other export successes include:
- The Auburn Leather Company of Auburn, Kentucky (population 1,300) is a woman-owned small business which manufactures leather laces for footwear and sporting equipment. In 1986, the company had 12 employees and $900,000 annual sales. As international interest for their products grew, Auburn Leather was able to access an insurance policy from the Export-Import Bank which has enabled them to meet demand. Auburn Leather now does over $20 million in annual sales, with export transactions accounting for more than 45 percent. The company employs 120 people, with twenty jobs added in the past two years alone. The company projects adding an additional 20 positions in the near future.
- West Virginia's Wheeling Truck Center in Wheeling, West Virginia (population 28,000) has exported trucks and truck parts into 93 countries. Several years ago, Wheeling received international requests and orders through its domestic e-commerce website. With help from the Department of Commerce the Wheeling Truck Center saw an increase in revenue of more than $2 million in 2013 and have created three full-time jobs that depend solely on exports in three years' time.
- Ziegler Brothers, Inc of Gardners, Pennsylvania (population 150) manufactures specialty animal feeds, aquaculture feeds for fish and shrimp farms, feeds for pet exotic animals and specialty diets for animals that serve as health models in research since 1935. The Ziegler Brothers export to over 40 countries a year, with exports accounting for about 50 percent of the company's overall sales.