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Remarks at Solar Turbines, San Diego, California


Wednesday, April 14, 2010



Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke
Remarks at Solar Turbines
San Diego, California

Hello everyone. It is great to be here in San Diego, and to be visiting such an exciting and dynamic company.

Most businesses justifiably see the Great Recession of the past couple of years as the most calamitous event they’ve ever had to endure.

But in these uncertain economic times Solar Turbines has not only have survived – it has thrived.

Solar Turbines is the San Diego region’s top exporter of manufactured products, and one of the top exporters in the state of California. Some 3,500 people are employed here in San Diego, and the business directly supports high-quality jobs in small businesses spread throughout the supply chain.

Whenever I see a successful company like Solar Turbines, I always ask myself the same question:

  • How can we replicate this?
  • How can we write more of these success stories all across America so we can put people back to work and get our economy firing on all cylinders again?

Well, the first thing a company might want to do is to try making some of the most efficient industrial gas turbines in the world—although it looks to me like Solar Turbines has already got that market covered.

But there’s another lesson companies can learn from Solar, no matter what business they're in.

They can start selling their goods and services to the 95 percent of the world’s consumers who live outside the United States.

Like its parent company, Caterpillar, Solar is an export powerhouse. Last year, 70 percent of all sales at Solar’s San Diego facility were to foreign customers.

And I am proud to say that our departments’ commercial service has played a key role in helping Solar’s export driven growth.

Our people here in San Diego and at overseas posts in U.S. embassies have helped match Solar with customers in China and compete for multimillion dollar foreign procurement contracts.

Recently, our senior commercial service officer in Algeria provided key guidance and support for Solar Turbines’ sale of 14 gas turbine power plants that will supply 120 MW of power to the Algerian national electric company.

We need to see more success stories like this.

Particularly when traditional drivers of U.S. growth like consumer and business spending are facing headwinds, increasing exports must be a central part of America’s economic recovery and job creation efforts.

That’s why the Obama administration has put the expansion of exports front and center.

A few months ago, President Obama announced the National Export Initiative (or NEI), which aims to double American exports over the next five years and support two million jobs here at home.

There have, of course, been previous attempts by the U.S. government to elevate the importance of exports. But what sets the NEI apart is that this is the first time the United States will have a government-wide export-promotion strategy with focused attention from the president and his cabinet.

This initiative was designed with one overriding goal in mind: to get people back to work in jobs that provide security, dignity and a sense of hope for the future.

Exactly the types of jobs that are provided by Solar Turbines.

With the NEI, American businesses that want to export—especially small and medium-size enterprises—are going to have a more vigorous partner in the U.S. government.

And that is vitally important because today less than one percent of America’s 30 million companies export. And of U.S. companies that do export, 58 percent export to only one country.

The NEI will help improve these figures by fundamentally focusing on three things:

Number one is a more robust effort by this administration to expand its trade advocacy in all its forms and beefing up outreach to small businesses. That means …

  • Educating U.S. companies about opportunities overseas;
  • Directly connecting them with new customers and
  • Advocating more forcefully for their interests in contracting processes that are increasingly being influenced by political factors

To help meet the trade promotion goals laid out in the NEI, the president’s proposed 2011 budget would funnel $132 million to the Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration (ITA), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture—backing up the rhetoric with resources.

If you’re an American firm and you want to sell your goods or services abroad, all you need to do is pick up the phone and call 1-800- USA-TRADE.

Commerce Department experts will then:

  • Conduct an international search to find potential agents or distributors for your unique business;
  • Contact potential overseas business partners;
  • And they will work with you to design and implement a market entry or expansion strategy

We obviously have a very capable team of trade specialists here in San Diego and that expertise exists all over the country and the world – and I would strongly urge the companies here to take advantage of it.

The second key plank of the NEI is improving access to credit in the wake of the financial crisis, especially for small- and medium-sized businesses that want to export.

In particular, the president has called upon the Export-Import Bank—which enables critical financing when private banks are unwilling or unable—to increase it’s financing available for small- and medium-size businesses from $4 billion to $6 billion over the next year.

And number three is continuing the rigorous enforcement of international trade laws to help remove barriers that prevent U.S. companies from getting open and fair access to foreign markets.

The American people need to feel confident that when we sign an agreement that gives foreign countries the privilege of free and fair access to our domestic market, we are treated the same in their countries.

These are the broad strokes of the National Export Initiative.

As I said earlier, this National Export Initiative drives ambitious goals: a doubling of exports in five years supporting two million jobs.

But these challenging times demand nothing less. We are in a global competition to create the industries and jobs of the future. If the U.S. is passive, if we fall back into the same old ruts, plenty of countries will be happy to eat our lunch. So we must push harder.

We must not waste any time in taking action.

Next month I am leading a trade delegation of clean energy and energy efficiency companies to China and Indonesia.

This will be my third trip to China since being sworn in as the Secretary of Commerce last year. And it will be my first trip that primarily focuses on alternative energy.

The Chinese market holds tremendous potential for companies that produce clean energy and energy efficient technologies—companies like Solar Turbine.

Today and in the years ahead it will be a top priority of the Obama a.dministration to help empower thousands of companies just like Solar Turbine.

There has never been any question that American companies make goods and services that are desired all over the world. Solar Turbine is a testament to that. And I’m confident my upcoming trade mission, as well as our other aggressive export promotion efforts, will pay substantial dividends for U.S. companies that want to export more, grow more and ultimately, create more jobs.

Thank you again for having me. I'm happy to answer your questions.