“Only the Serious Need Attend” could have been the slogan for the Made In Rural America forum held at Southwest Tennessee Community College – Macon Cove Campus last week (July 17th).
In a small amount of time a tremendous amount of information was shared with those serious enough to consider doing business outside of their perceived comfort zone. The context was this: While most businesses focus on a local market and a few become national, there are some that have their business so together that they can pursue business on an international level.
In an effort commissioned by the Obama Administration and led by the White House Rural Council, the event was designed to pass on vital information regarding targeted exports, investment initiatives and federal support for small businesses in the Delta. It brought to Memphis the U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and Federal Co-Chairman of the Delta Regional Authority Chris Masingill.
The event was hosted by the Commerce Department, the Delta Regional Authority and the White House Rural Council, which is charged with bringing together federal resources to help rural businesses take advantage of new investment opportunities and access new customers and markets abroad.
In addition to providing the Made In Rural America forums, there is a commitment by the Administration to provide enhanced export counseling for rural businesses to connect with foreign buyers. That connection will be through Department of Commerce U.S. Export Assistance Center trade specialists in over 100 domestic locations and in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s field staff. Also, there will be coordination across the Administration to promote rural-produced goods and services at trade events, including trade missions, buyer programs, trade shows and other promotion programs.
Secretary Pritzker delivered the keynote speech and later allotted time to a question-and-answer period. Deliberate in her message that rural manufacturing and increased exports are the keys to drive investment and job creation, she shared information on where companies can obtain the information on how to export and how to access the federal resources needed to thrive in a global marketplace.
Why is the Delta Region appealing for exporting?
According to Chairman Masingill, “The Delta region, with its entrepreneurial history, affordable energy, available land, and accessible waterways and transportation network, is primed to reap the benefits of a national focus on rural America.”
In 2013, the eight states in the Delta Region exported approximately $238.9 billion in manufactured goods from about 53,000 businesses in those states. The majority of the exporting companies were small- and medium-sized firms.
The forum’s agenda featured various panel discussions, including: Positioning Rural America for Success in the 21st Century, The Delta Region’s Export Landscape and Opportunities, Best Practices for Export Success, Export Financing Solutions, Exports and Economic Development: An Opportunity for Growth, and Strengthening Links between Businesses and Their Export Service Providers. Information was the main course of the day and it was distributed generously.
Most businesses are in search of capital and the export businesses are no different. According to the National Export Initiative (NEXT), there are federal export-financing programs that can help expand production, offer buyers competitive terms, and protect businesses from risk. Start the search at www.trade.gov/neinext.
Another stop on the financing path is Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) located in Atlanta. With a history of supporting nearly 1.2 million jobs in the United States since 2009, Ex-Im Bank, which is a federal agency, provides express insurance and global credit express up to $500,000 of working capital to fulfill export orders. Visit them at www.Exim.gov.
Many small businesses lack working capital for day-to-day operations much less export opportunities. Through its participating lenders, the Small Business Administration (SBA) offers an Export Express guaranty of up to $500,000 and an international trade loan up to a total of $5,000,000 that can make a difference. Review the opportunities at www.SBA.gov/international.
For those businesses that export U.S. made food and agriculture products, the Southern United States Trade Association (SUSTA) is a non-profit offering its help. SUSTA assists in the promotion of the brand internationally at half the cost and potential reimbursement of up to $300,000 on eligible expenses. Learn about qualifications of participating at www.susta.org.
Do not limit yourself. Consider the export business.