U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker Advances President’s “Made in Rural America” Initiative at Memphis Regional Forum

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Submitted on July 17, 2014 - 3:52pm

Thursday, July 17, 2014
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U.S. Department of Commerce and Delta Regional Authority partner with the White House Rural Council agencies to increase rural access to global opportunities and export resources

Today, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker highlighted progress on efforts to help rural small businesses and communities expand exports at the second “Made in Rural America” regional export forum with business owners and local leaders from the Mississippi Delta region.  The Delta Regional Authority hosted the one-day event at Southwest Tennessee Community College to bring together local, state, and federal resources to help rural businesses grow and support jobs through exports. In a keynote discussion with Delta Regional Authority Federal Co-Chairman Chris Masingill, Secretary Pritzker spoke about how the Department of Commerce and federal agencies are working together to enhance opportunities for businesses in the Delta’s rural communities, focusing on increasing exports from the Delta’s many manufacturers, value-added producers, and service providers.

“From day one, the Obama Administration made increasing exports a central pillar of its strategy for economic growth and job creation, and we are building on that commitment to American businesses of all sizes through the ‘Made in Rural America’ initiative,” said Secretary Pritzker. “The ‘Made in Rural America’ initiative is a key way the Administration is providing focused export assistance through our revitalized export agenda – NEI/NEXT – to help more American businesses sell their world-class products and services to the 95 percent of consumers who live outside the United States. Increasing our exports from communities large and small is critical to supporting well-paying jobs right here in the Delta Region and in other areas of the country. Together, we can make ‘Made in Rural America’ a stamp of pride recognized globally.”

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,” said Chairman Chris Masingill. “While the region and its people are excited about hosting this forum, we’re more excited about reaping the job and investment benefits that will come from today’s conversation on rural exporting.”

The regional forum series is part of the Administration’s “Made in Rural America” Export and Investment Initiative that President Obama announced earlier this year to help rural businesses and leaders take advantage of new investment opportunities and access new markets abroad. The regional forums provide business-to-business learning opportunities and federal, state, and local expertise for rural business and community leaders. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and the Appalachian Regional Commission kicked off the forum series in Canonsburg, Penn., on June 4. The next forum – which will be keynoted by U.S. Trade Representative, Ambassador Michael Froman – will be held in partnership with local economic development leaders in Iowa in early August. Additional forums in the series will be headlined by Small Business Administration Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet and Export-Import Bank Chairman Fred Hochberg.

At the forum, Secretary Pritzker and other Administration officials detailed how the “Made in Rural America” initiative is making a difference for rural exporters, including:

  • Designating funds for trade specialists in the International Trade Administration’s field offices in more than 100 cities to travel to more rural areas and enhance export counseling of rural companies.
  • Working with partners to support more rural companies and alleviate costs to attend overseas trade missions.
  • Equipping U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development staff in all 50 states plus territories with the information they need to counsel rural companies with export potential and connect them to export-related resources.
  • Establishing a dedicated web portal for rural businesses considering export opportunities available on Business.USA.gov/rural-exporting.

    Business.USA.gov allows U.S. businesses to search aggregated business-related information and resources from 24 federal agencies, from starting a business to financing to expanding through exporting.

Secretary Pritzker recently reaffirmed the Obama Administration’s commitment to U.S. exporters by unveiling a revitalized government-wide strategy to increase U.S. exports: NEI NEXT. NEI/NEXT is a data-based, customer-driven initiative, focused on helping more American businesses of all sizes – including rural businesses – capitalize on new and existing opportunities to sell Made-in-America goods and services abroad. NEI/NEXT will help more American companies reach more overseas markets with objectives focused on improving data, providing information on specific export opportunities, working more closely with financing organizations and service providers, and partnering with states and communities to empower local export efforts. Since the launch of the NEI, a record number of U.S. companies have exported annually, and last year exports reached an all-time high of $2.3 trillion.

Exporting companies on average grow rapidly, employ more workers, and pay higher wages than non-exporting companies and the United States has seen an increase of 1.6 million export-supported jobs since the NEI launched. Examples of successful exporting companies in the Delta Region include:

  • Tallahatchie Lumber in Charleston, Mississippi (population 2,100) is a small manufacturer of wood mats for use in the oil and gas industry. In April 2012, Tallahatchie Lumber wanted to identify and connect with buyers in Canada, and received help from trade specialists in their local U.S. Export Assistance Center in Jackson, MS. As a result of making export sales during the past two years, the company’s growth boomed, and Tallahatchie Lumber increased its workforce from 6 employees to 45.
  • Jobco, Inc., located in Fort Smith, AR (population 87,000) is industrial heater supply company. This year, using knowledge gained through federal export counseling and educational seminars, Jobco completed its first export sale: to Peru. Jobco says a key factor to ensuring their first export transition was using U.S. Export-Import Bank export credit insurance. Jobco has since started exporting to Colombia and India. 
  • Hydratrek, a small manufacturer of amphibious vehicles headquartered in Covington, Tennessee (population 9,000) worked with the Department of Commerce to prepare for exporting and identify potential partners in the Philippines. Thanks to planning and foresight, Hydratrek was well positioned to bid on a tender the Philippines Government opened in 2013. With government support and coordination for its bid, Hydratrek secured the tender for $2.5 million. 

About the White House Rural Council:

To address challenges in Rural America, build on the Administration's rural economic strategy, and improve the implementation of that strategy, the President signed an Executive Order establishing the White House Rural Council. The Council coordinates the Administration's efforts in rural America by streamlining and improving the effectiveness of federal programs serving rural America; engage stakeholders, including farmers, ranchers, and local citizens, on issues and solutions in rural communities; and promoting and coordinating private-sector partnerships. The work of the White House Rural Council to bring investment to rural America is an example of how the Administration is creating smart partnerships with the private sector to better support Americans in all parts of the country.

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