U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and George LeMieux (R-FL) today announced that their legislation to help small- and medium-sized businesses promote their products overseas has been included in the legislative package supporting small businesses that the Senate is now considering. The Klobuchar-LeMieux provisions will connect businesses with export promotion resources that will help them expand into new markets and increase their bottom line. More than 95 percent of the world's customers are located outside the United States, and recently, 30 percent of U.S. businesses indicated that they would be interested in exporting but did not know where to begin.
"In an increasingly competitive global economy, it is important to ensure that small- and medium-sized businesses have access to information and tools to capitalize on potential opportunities in foreign markets," Klobuchar said. "Small businesses are the engines of job creation in Minnesota and across the nation, and by increasing exports, they can lead the way to economic recovery. Exporting is literally a world of opportunity."
"During these tough economic times, we need to look at creative ways to increase job opportunities and help small businesses thrive," LeMieux said. "One sure way to grow small businesses is by increasing exports. With this provision, companies unsure of how to take their business to the next level can receive expert advice and the knowledge they need to promote their products abroad."
The Export Promotion Act, introduced by Klobuchar and LeMieux in March, has been incorporated into the Senate's substitute amendment to the Small Business Jobs Act, which would provide tax incentives and increase access to credit for small businesses. The Senate is expected to vote on this legislation this week.
Klobuchar is the chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Competitiveness, Innovation, and Export Promotion and LeMieux is the ranking member. Last December, the senators called for a report to detail the resources currently available to help small businesses increase their exports and provide recommendations for strengthening these programs. Klobuchar and LeMieux also held a subcommittee hearing in October that examined the federal government's efforts to promote U.S. products overseas. The hearing featured testimony from representatives from the Export-Import Bank, the U.S. Department of Commerce, and several businesses including Mattracks, Inc., a company based in Karlstad, Minnesota.
The Export Promotion Act will help businesses by increasing export promotion and outreach efforts through the Department of Commerce. Officials in the department's International Trade Administration have expertise in helping small businesses navigate their way into new markets abroad. But for the past few years, the program that specializes in matching small businesses with potential export markets has not replaced retiring officials, losing roughly 200 officials since 2004 as demand for the assistance continues to increase. The bill will restore staffing levels in this program to their 2004 levels.
The legislation will also expand the outreach program through the Department of Commerce's Rural Export Initiative (REI) to ensure that small and medium-sized businesses located in rural areas know about the Commerce Department's export promotion services. In 2006 alone the REI helped rural American businesses generate over $183 million in exports with an investment of $860,000 -- a return of approximately $213 on each dollar.
U.S. exports currently support more than six million jobs in manufacturing and one million jobs in agriculture. Businesses that export pay employees 13-to-18 percent more and are 8 percent more likely to stay in business than companies that do not export. However, less than one percent of U.S. businesses take advantage of exporting, and of those that do export, 60 percent limit themselves to only one foreign country.