State Launches $1.6M Export Washington Program for Small Business

Source:  Washington State Department of Commerce, December 6, 2011.

The Washington State Department of Commerce has launched the Export Washington program, moving another step forward toward the goal of increasing the number of Washington state businesses actively exporting by 30% and growing export sales to $100 billion by 2015 as called for in Governor Gregoire’s Washington Export Initiative.

The new Export Washington program represents a $1.6 million investment in Washington’s small businesses, making it possible for them to expand into high-potential overseas markets. It is funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration’s State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) grant program.

Washington earned the third largest state grant from SBA under the federal Small Business Jobs Act. The newly funded programs will run for 12 months. The Washington State Legislature previously allocated $3 million over three years for export training and other assistance to support the Washington Export Initiative.

“With 95 percent of the world’s consumers outside of the United States, exporting represents one of our greatest opportunities to generate economic growth and jobs,” said Commerce Director Rogers Weed. “But it takes time and effort to develop export opportunities. These new programs enabled by the STEP grant, will help more of our state’s promising businesses and entrepreneurs open up international markets for their products and services.” Through the slow recovery from recession, companies engaged in exporting showed a pattern of growth in the past one to two years, while non-trading companies generally declined in the same period according to Commerce analysis.

Small businesses make up about 95 percent of Washington businesses, and only 4 percent of Washington businesses currently export. Commerce officials estimate that 100 companies will benefit from the new Export Washington program. The program has three main components:

1.       International, Rural and Agricultural Accelerator programs-Washington State representatives in Europe and China provide direct sales, marketing and distribution assistance for state small businesses , effectively giving them “boots on the ground” in those high-potential markets.  Rural Washington businesses will be able to leverage expertise from community economic development partners as well as training, mentorship and networking programs.  Agriculturally-focused businesses will have direct access to trade representatives from key target markets including China, Japan, Mexico and Taiwan, along with training on food and beverage-specific requirements for exports to these target markets. They’ll also receive help with developing export marketing plans.

2.       Export Finance Assistance-The Export Finance Assistance Center of Washington will focus an aggressive series of training activities aimed at increasing the number of banks that participate in export finance programs from the Export-Import Bank and Small Business Administration.

3.       Export Vouchers-As a direct investment in the growth of Washington small businesses, a voucher program will help them “go global” by paying for training and marketing activities including trade shows, language translations, international product certifications, and other activities.

“For a business poised to expand into a promising new market, an export voucher can provide the incentive needed for them to ‘make the leap’ without having to cut elsewhere,” Weed said.

One example is Enprecis, a Seattle-based technology company with a focus on the automotive industry serving eight global markets including China and Russia, and 12 car-maker brands. Enprecis’ global expansion going forward will use the China Accelerator programwhich will enable the company to open a Shanghai office.

Richard Counihan, Enprecis CEO, notes that “Without the assistance and programs from the Washington State Department of Commerce, we would have been unable to get access to the key decision makers at important global manufacturers in markets such as China. As a result, we accomplished swift decisions to move forward and received assistance to get up and running.”

Several companies will be using the Export Washington vouchers to participate in upcoming trade shows, including those targeted by Commerce such as the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain in February and the Aerospace and Defense Supplier Summit in Seattle in March. There are still vouchers available to attend these and other shows, for more information see the Export Voucher Program website.

Commerce will introduce the Export Washington programs, and several new credit access programs under the Washington small business credit initiative announced yesterday, to the small business community at a social media reception from noon to 2 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 7 at the Space Needle in Seattle, in conjunction with the Linked:Seattle group on LinkedIn. For more information on the event, visit http://WAglobalSB.eventbrite.com.

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