Montanans can profit in export market

Billings Gazette

by Fred Hochberg

Montana is known by millions of people throughout the world as a destination. Its rugged mountains, fish and wildlife, big sky and open plains are destinations. And as a destination state, Montana has a lot to offer its visitors.

Montana has a lot to offer as a small-business state as well. It is home to some of the world’s best craftsmen and manufacturers, some of the hardest-working service providers, and some of the world’s finest food — from beef to barley to sugar beets.

The round blue, red and gold “Made in Montana” logo is a nationally recognized symbol of pride. “Made in Montana” is a valuable marketing asset to countless small businesses because it represents quality. I believe there’s tremendous opportunity in marketing “Made in Montana” to many new marketplaces beyond America’s borders.

Expanding sales opportunities for Montana farms, ranches and companies will grow profits, create new jobs and boost Montana’s economy.

Only 1% export

Ninety-five percent of the world’s consumers do not live in the United States. Yet only 1 percent of America’s 30 million companies export their goods and services to other countries. And of U.S. companies that export, 58 percent export directly to only one country.

Last year, the United States exported more than $1.6 trillion worth of goods and services. Exports accounted for nearly 11 percent of our gross domestic product. More Montana companies ought to be a part of the equation.

That’s why I’m teaming up with Sen. Jon Tester today in Billings for the Treasure State Export Seminar, one of a series of Exports Live events presented by the Export-Import Bank across the country. The daylong event will be held today at Rocky Mountain College. Presenters will host free workshops throughout the day. And representatives from Google will be on hand to help Montana small businesses use the Internet to find new opportunities overseas.

Navigation help

Why do so many businesses choose not to export? Maybe it’s because they believe it’s too complicated. Maybe it’s because they believe there’s too much paperwork involved. Or it’s too expensive. Or there’s too much risk.

But help is available and easy to access. Our goal at the seminar is to take intimidation out of the picture, and to give Montanans the tools they need to be successful exporters if they choose. In effect, the U.S. government can become a U.S. exporter’s valuable silent partner in helping navigate the path to foreign sales.

The Export-Import Bank of the United States, a self-sustaining (meaning that there is no cost to the U.S. taxpayer) and independent federal agency, is a powerful resource to all American companies interested in expanding their goods and services to foreign marketplaces. The Ex-Im Bank offers loan guarantees to help business get a jump-start on the capital they need, and it provides insurance to companies that do business overseas.

I agree with Sen. Tester when he says there’s a “gold mine of opportunity for businesses in Treasure State.”

Fred Hochberg is chairman of the Export-Import Bank of the United States.