Guest blog post by Acting Assistant Secretary for Economic Development Matt Erskine
In Commerce Secretary Bryson’s statement to mark World Trade Month, he discussed steps the Obama administration is taking to give “American workers and businesses a fair shot in the global economy by supporting trade agreements that will open up markets to U.S. companies, working to aggressively investigate unfair trade practices taking place anywhere in the world, and continuing to work to ensure that our workers and businesses are competing on a level playing field.” President Obama will issue a proclamation to commemorate World Trade Week, which falls in the third week of May, to expand on this commitment to promote U.S. exports.
Words like “partnering” and “leveraging” might seem abstractions at times, but when it comes to making investments that help U.S. businesses export, they are anything but. One excellent example of the effectiveness of partnering and leveraging the resources of multiple organizations is the “Job Creation through Export Development: Innovative Manufacturing and Service Program” of the World Trade Center of Greater Philadelphia (WTCGP). In 2010, the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) invested $1 million to bolster the efforts of WTCGP to promote the global presence of the Southeastern Pennsylvania and South Jersey region. The initiative serves as a catalyst for regional economic growth and job creation in four sectors that have been targeted by the program as having high export potential: energy and environment, high technology and nanotechnology, biotech and life sciences, and education. The outcomes so far have been impressive. Already more than 275 Philadelphia-area companies have become clients of WTCGP’s program, with 35 of them reporting incremental total export sales of $89.9 million during the first 18 months of their participation. In addition, the program has held six regional conferences that have linked businesses with international market opportunities; developed three multi-sector trade missions; and conducted educational seminars targeted at the needs of participating businesses. It has also provided individual trade counseling and aided companies in gaining access to resources they need to develop international sales, such as market research, market-entry strategies, partner matchmaking, identification of prospective agents and distributors, and access to legal assistance for distribution.
A key component is to coordinate the resources of nine partner organizations to develop seminars, conferences, trade missions and other events to leverage funding, support in-kind contributions, and optimize outreach to potential exporters in the Philadelphia region. These partners include such well-known business organizations as the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania, the Delaware Valley Industrial Resource Center, and the Temple University Center for International Business, among others.
These nuts-and-bolts strategies are the very things that U.S. companies—especially small- and medium-sized businesses—have repeatedly said they need in order to enter and succeed in the world market. And they are the things that the Obama administration has made a priority since 2010, when the president announced the National Export Initiative (NEI): to marshal the full resources of the federal government behind America’s businesses, large and small, and help them sell their goods, services, and ideas to the world.
The efforts of the World Trade Center of Greater Philadelphia to foster job creation through export development are helping to make that a reality.