Trade official urges Utah businesses to keep growing exports


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SALT LAKE CITY -- When it comes to international trade, Utah is a leader among states. Business owners gathered in Salt Lake City Tuesday to talk about even more growth in exports.


Nearly 96% of consumers live outside the U.S. and two-thirds of the world's purchasing power is in foreign countries. -Small Business Administration

In January, the Obama administration set a lofty goal for international trade: double exports during the next five years to support two million American jobs.

Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Francisco Sanchez says he is optimistic America will hit that target, and Utah businesses are poised to benefit.

"Utah is just doing terrific, you're a model for the nation," says Sanchez.

Nearly 900 Utah business owners and leaders showed up for the Zions Bank Trade and Business Conference, at which Sanchez was a featured speaker.

Many Utah businesses are eager to increase exports and broaden their markets to create more jobs. Sanchez points out, Utah was the only state to post positive export growth last year.

Utah exports
  • Grew 70%, reaching $10.3 billion in 2008.
  • The largest export sector was primary metal manufactures, accounting for $4.2 billion or 41% of the total.
  • Other strong sectors include:
    • Computers and electronic products ($2 billion)
    • Transportation equipment ($813 million)
    • Processed foods ($513 million)
  • More than 2,400 local companies export, 86% of which are small and medium sized businesses
  • Utah's highest volume trade partner is the United Kingdom. Local businesses exported about $3.5 billion worth of goods to the U.K.in 2008
  • Utah's other large export markets are:
    • Canada($1.1 billion)
    • Taiwan($728 million)
    • Belgium(%543 million)
    • China($527 million)

"Utah has a very strong and vibrant entrepreneurial spirit," he says. "I believe that's a very, very important component of taking advantage of global opportunities."

He also credits the leadership of former Gov. John Huntsman, Jr., who now helps the nation grow trade in China as a U.S. ambassador.

Sanchez also cites resources, banks willing to support exports through financing, and a local International Trade Administration office as reasons for export success in Utah.

When you consider all that Utah has to offer, exports might not come to mind. But, Utah boasts industries for precious metals, medical devices and services like Ancestry.com.

International tourism is also considered an export.

"When you have a visitor from China or Japan, as Utah does, many visitors from Asia, you're part of the export economy," the secretary says.

From 2005 to 2009, Utah's exports grew 70 percent, reaching $10.3 billion last year. More than 2,400 Utah companies export -- 86 percent of which are small and medium-sized businesses.

Globally, Sanchez says America still leads in innovation: health care technology, clean energy and aerospace.

"Ninety-five percent of the world's consumers live outside our boarders, so we have got to look at the world as our marketplace," says Sanchez.

The International Trade Administration of the Commerce Department wants to help businesses which are already exporting grow their business and help others get started.

"Help them in whatever way we can, whether it's reducing trade barriers, whether it's being a strong advocate for them. If we do all these things, then I believe we can achieve this goal," says Sanchez,

Two years ago, U.S. exports of goods and services accounted for 10 million jobs. Last year, 1.8 million of those jobs disappeared. A resurgence in exports should lead to new jobs.

The International Trade Administration works to make it easier for companies to enter new markets by showing them the way and negotiating to reduce tariffs and other non-tariff roadblocks to commerce.

E-mail: jboal@ksl.com

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