Is exporting right for your business?


Deb Tacoma, right, founder of Zeeland-based Freedom Creators, talks with an attendee at a health care trade show in Dubai. Tacoma was part of the Pure Michigan booth at the show. Courtesy Deb Tacoma

Have you considered exporting your goods or services? Are you currently exporting and wanting to increase your export sales or expand into new markets? If you answered yes to either of the questions, you are like many other small businesses in Michigan.

Exporting has stimulated economic growth, but Michigan will experience economic growth faster if more small businesses use the resources available to them and start exporting. 

Michigan exporters

The International Trade Administration reported that the total exports from Michigan have increased by $5 billion over the past five years.

Thousands of manufacturing jobs depend on the export of manufactured goods: 279,700 jobs in Michigan are export related and of that number, 141,600 are manufacturing jobs, according to 2011 ITA state employment figures.

There were 14,814 exporters in Michigan in 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Of the Michigan exporters, 13,339, or 90 percent, are small businesses. These companies exported over $10.35 billion worth goods to markets throughout the world in 2011. This is roughly $775,545 per small business.  

Is exporting for your business?

A clear division no longer exists between domestic and international markets.

In a world of more than six billion people, global communication networks, overnight airfreight deliveries across the globe and access to resources to assist small businesses with foreign trade, it simply doesn’t make sense to limit a company’s sales to the local or even the national market. 

Michigan has 851,112 small businesses, according to 2010 data.

Of those small businesses, 171,360 have employees, and only 12,815, or fewer than 8 percent, were exporters in 2010. 

So why don’t more of the 171,360 Michigan small businesses consider exporting? One reason is that they don't know how to engage with foreign markets.

If you aren't sure if exporting is right for your business, there are resources to help you assess your strengths in the global marketplace, identify export opportunities and prepare for the next steps to engage with exporting.

Exporting resources

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation developed the Pure Michigan Export Program as a way to provide strategic growth solutions to Michigan companies by helping them reach an international consumer base.

The program features two component programs to assist companies with their exporting needs: STEP, or the State Trade Export Program, and Export Now.

The STEP program helps small and medium-sized businesses launch and expand their exporting efforts, while the Export Now program partners strategically with China to offer consumer goods businesses a one-stop online solution to sell internationally.

The Van Andel Global Trade Center at Grand Valley State University is another resource for businesses.

The mission of VAGTC is to strengthen the community through increased global business by providing international consulting, training and resources. The center partners with the U.S. Export Assistance Center, the Pure Michigan Export Program and the Michigan District Export Council.

The USEAC in Grand Rapids serves the entire Western portion of Michigan.

They help companies export goods and services by proving a variety of services: trade counseling, planning and strategy, legal and regulatory issues and documentation and product requirements.

The USEAC also makes company referrals to the Western Michigan District Export Council.

The council is a group of volunteers, appointed by the Secretary of Commerce, that have expertise and insight on foreign distribution, international logistics and other legal issues. The DEC helps companies create export market plans, as they address export opportunities, regulations, international business culture and practices.

If you're interested in exploring how to export goods and services, you may want to talk with organizations that are eager to assist you.

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