BY TIM MCCABE
The link is simple, straightforward and well proven: finding export markets for Oregon products means thousands of jobs for Oregonians here at home. Export-supported jobs linked to manufacturing account for an estimated 5.1% of Oregon’s total private-sector employment. Nearly one in four manufacturing jobs in Oregon depends on exports, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. That is why Gov. John Kitzhaber has already taken three business development missions overseas to South Korea, to China and Japan (September 2011); China, Hong Kong and Japan (October 2012); and to the Netherlands and Germany last month.
International trade impacts every region of the state, with nearly 5,000 Oregon companies exporting their goods and services abroad, from large companies like Intel and Nike to blueberry farmers in the Willamette Valley and recycling equipment manufacturers in Eugene. To take advantage of global opportunities for small businesses, through Business Oregon, the state offers company-specific counseling on export-related questions and concerns with our expert team of global trade specialists. Our team can help find a winning match when it comes to foreign agent/distributors, foreign customers or joint-venture partners.
In addition, Business Oregon has overseas representatives in Japan, China, South Korea and Europe to connect companies to critical networks of foreign-government officials, foreign companies and foreign-trade associations. These representatives can provide due diligence when researching potential agents and distributors in foreign markets, on-the-ground knowledge of global competition in foreign markets, and expertise in cultural and business protocol in foreign cultures.
To get started exhibiting at international trade shows, Business Oregon offers matching grants to help defray the costs of attending. The Oregon Trade Promotion Program offers export assistance grants of up to $3,500. In addition, Business Oregon now also manages the Oregon State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) program, using $499,000 in funds from the U.S. Small Business Administration. Eligible small businesses can apply online, then a specialist follows up to discuss the applicant’s export interests and review possible strategies.
Other resources, such as training provided by a small business development center or relevant seminars organized by the Portland District office of the U.S. Export Assistance Center, may be included as a customized export plan is developed. In some cases, we can help bring together several Oregon companies wishing to share exhibit space or join forces in other ways at a given show. The global strategies team also follows up after six and 12 months to gather any further sales information.
In the first year of the additional STEP funding, 77 Oregon companies participated in the program at 59 trade shows, resulting in an estimated $2 million in new export sales. The companies report expected future sales of more than $12.6 million in 2013.
One great example of how the program can work to grow revenues for Oregon small businesses is Tigard-based PowerHammer, which manufactures pneumatically-operated, single-blow impact hammers for use in foundries. The company used a matching grant last May to attend the Metal & Metallurgy trade show in Beijing. Their appearance at the show immediately led to a $120,000 sale, and within six months the company had realized an additional $260,000 in sales.
Exports remain the cornerstone of Oregon’s economy. Our highly skilled workforce produces high-quality goods sought by customers around the world. Here at Business Oregon, one of our most important jobs is to help those Oregon companies find those markets and thrive.
Tim McCabe is the director of Business Oregon. Visit Oregon4biz.com for more information.