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Remarks at ExportsLive! - Detroit, Michigan


Friday, December 11, 2009



Deputy Secretary of Commerce Dennis F. Hightower
Remarks at ExportsLive!
Detroit, Michigan

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Thank you Chairman Hochberg for the kind introduction and also for your outstanding leadership in organizing the “Exports Live!” seminars.

It is great to be here in Detroit for the grand finale of the eight city series.

When Fred approached Commerce and our other sister agencies with the idea of doing major trade promotion events in some of America’s top metropolitan cities, we all jumped at the opportunity to participate.

Not only did we think this was a terrific idea, but I understand that there have been senators and members of the House of Representatives, mayors and other prominent officials participating at almost every stop.

Perhaps, most important, however, is the fact that over 1,300 businesses have been reached by the ExportsLive! Road Show.

That is so important, especially in these difficult economic times, where support for trade is often threatened.

It has been clear since my very first day at the Commerce Department that one of our chief challenges would be Keeping goods and services flowing freely and fairly across our borders.

At the Commerce Department, we are pursuing a series of initiatives to further open markets, level the international playing field, and provide tangible results and opportunities to U.S. businesses and workers.

The first initiative is enhancing America’s trade promotion efforts. As Chairman of the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee, Secretary Locke is working with Fred and 18 other government agency heads to craft an aggressive export strategy across the entire administration.

We want to ensure that American companies, especially the small and mid-sized firms that account for over half of all new jobs, have fair and frequent access to foreign markets.

To help business expand into new markets, the Commerce Department has export assistance offices in over 100 U.S. cities. There is one right here in Detroit, on Jefferson Avenue, among the four in Michigan.

And we have a trade specialist in our pilot CommerceConnect office in nearby Plymouth, which I visited last month.

In fact, we have Commerce trade specialists right here in this room. At the risk of embarrassing them, can I ask them to please stand? Thank you.

For those of you who are not familiar with this new office, CommerceConnect is a new effort that seeks to bring together all the different expertise offered throughout the Commerce Department into one place that is easily accessible for businesses.

The CommerceConnect office in Plymouth is our first, but if it's successful—and so far we have every reason to think it will be—we will roll out in other parts of the country as well.

At a subcommittee meeting on international trade and global competitiveness on Wednesday, Senator Stabenow said she is already hearing good reports about CommerceConnect from Michigan companies.

Additionally, our department has commercial officers in 77 countries to flag opportunities and assist U.S. companies in selling their products and services abroad.

Commercial Service personnel can walk you through every step of the export process, from learning how to export to logistics and shipping issues.

And they coordinate closely with other agencies with export services such as the Export-Import Bank and Small business Administration on financing and other issues.

These are your tax dollars working for you.

But many businesses are not even aware that government offers this assistance. And others feel like they need a GPS to try to navigate the government bureaucracy.

As a consequence, many American businesses are missing out on viable opportunities—especially when it comes to accessing foreign markets.

Ninety-seven percent of U.S. exporters are small and medium-size enterprises, but they account for only 30 percent of export value.

And of all the American businesses that do export, many export to only one country.

I believe we must do a lot better.

Exports are an increasingly important part of our economy. According to some estimates, every $180,000 worth of exports equals one job.

Exports accounted for almost 13 percent of our GDP last year—almost three times as much as they did 50 years ago.

Exports support millions of American jobs upstream and downstream. And export-related jobs pay higher wages than non-export related jobs. That is why a key strategy of the Obama administration to spur new job creation is to increase American exports

Global markets can help revive the fortunes of U.S. companies and put people back to work in good paying jobs that provide security and dignity.

After a catastrophic beginning to 2009 that almost saw the onset of the second Great Depression, we are slowly starting to see signs of hope.

Credit markets are stabilizing and job losses are slowly.

But we still have a long way to go.

These are still tough times for a whole lot of people, including many families that are struggling here in Michigan.

Detroit has been especially hard-hit with a record high unemployment rate.

And from my participation in high-level meetings with the White House and other federal agencies, I can tell you there is a real sense of urgency to put people back to work.

As far as this administration is concerned, we are not in an economic recovery until every single American who wants a job can get one.

At last week’s White House Forum on Jobs and Economic growth, President Obama, Secretary Locke, and other government, business and labor leaders joined together to explore all avenues for job creation, from new tax credits for small businesses to new investments in infrastructure.

We are committed to using every tool in our tool box to get people back to work.

And i do hope companies here in Michigan see the various tools the Commerce Department has as a crucial asset to help you grow and bring on new people.

Last year, our commercial service helped over 12,300 clients capture international markets and grow their businesses.

About 800 of these successes were from companies that had never exported before. And nearly 3,000 were firms that found a new market.

MedArray, a manufacturing company in Ann Arbor, made their first export sale to Cranfield University in the United Kingdom early in 2009. They then went on to successfully export to Australia, Canada, France and South Africa.

Last summer, Engineered Machine Products in rural Escanaba worked with the Commercial Service to find a major distributor for their products in Mexico.

Dynamic Manufacturing Corporation in Weidman contacted our offices for advice on trade financing and a meeting was arranged with SBA.

With an SBA loan, Dynamic was able to expand production and fund an export sale to Thailand valued at $50,000.

In 2006, Enstrom Helicopter in Menominee enlisted Commercial Service aid on their bid on a tender from the Royal Thai government.

Working with other U.S. government agencies, Commercial Service staff were able to help Enstrom overcome a series of challenging obstacles.

During Wednesday’s subcommittee meeting, Senator Stabenow also recognized the valuable assistance provided to Enstrom by the Commercial Service.

In 2009, Enstrom won the procurement valued at approximately $35 million and anticipates recalling all of about 50 previously laid-off employees.

Equally important is the story we are seeing in other parts of the country on refocusing technology to green industries.

Christensen Shipyards, a yacht-building firm in Washington State, is diversifying into renewable energy equipment.

Its sister company, Renewable Energy Composite Solutions, is preparing to retro-fit manufacturing equipment to make vertical wind turbines, as well as buoys that use the continuous wave energy of the ocean to generate power.

These are just a few of the success stories.

There are many more to be written if businesses here in Michigan continue to work with the Commerce Department to maximize their export potential.

Thank you all for coming here today and I will be happy to answer any questions you may have.