Governor Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty on Monday announced an international strategy focused on increasing the exports of Tennessee goods to key markets around the globe. Efforts will be led by ECD’s International Division with new Export Development Offices in Mexico, the United Kingdom, Germany serving the entire European Union, and China. Monday’s announcement marks the first time since 1997 that the state of Tennessee has had overseas offices solely dedicated to advancing Tennessee exports.
“Almost 20 percent of all Tennessee workers depend on the manufacture and sale of exported goods for their jobs,” Governor Haslam said. “Tennessee-made goods are known the world over for their quality and dependability, and a new export strategy will continue to help us meet our goal of becoming the No. 1 state in the Southeast for high quality jobs.”
“When facing an uncertain global economy, it is imperative that Tennessee businesses take steps to access both untapped markets and those exhibiting an increase in purchasing power due to fluctuating currency rates,” Commissioner Hagerty said. “The state’s economy is more connected to the global economy than ever before, and we are excited to roll out new initiatives to help educate and open doors for Tennessee companies.”
During the last decade, Tennessee’s total export volume has more than tripled. More than 6,400 Tennessee businesses employing 80,000 workers sold nearly $30 billion worth of Tennessee products around the world in 2011 alone, ranking Tennessee the 14th largest exporting state in the U.S.
ECD’s export program TNTrade was announced in 2011, and two successful trade missions were led to Mexico with Tennessee automotive suppliers last July and another to China and South Korea with Tennessee medical device manufacturers and health care companies in April.
TNTrade will evolve to offer export assistance in key global markets, education and networking opportunities using resources provided by a Small Business Administration State Trade and Export Program grant. The coming year will focus on identifying and educating small and medium companies interested in exporting with an overall goal of increasing exports by 10 percent over the next three years.
“Tennessee is one of the foremost transportation hubs in the world, and this superiority in logistics gives our state an added and compelling advantage in the competition for global export markets,” Commissioner Hagerty added.
Export Development Offices located in Mexico, the United Kingdom, Germany and China will help Tennessee small- and medium-size businesses navigate the exporting process. A variety of free services will be offered including business intelligence, market analysis, sales and marketing planning, identification of distribution partners and service providers, and company matchmaking.
“Some of the greatest barriers to exporting are lack of knowledge and fear of the unknown,” Samar Ali, ECD assistant commissioner for International Affairs, said. “Our goal is to eliminate these uncertainties and make exporting less intimidating, while fostering an export culture throughout the state.”
The TNTrade Academy will also be established to flatten the export learning curve and compress the timeline leading to a successful export sale. As part of the Academy, a select group of businesses will be given a grant to complete Belmont University’s Global Business Professional Series that includes monthly luncheons with international business experts across the state, and a new web portal will be established featuring export education resources and announcements.
Top export markets for Tennessee include Canada, Mexico, China, Japan and the United Kingdom, while top export commodities include medical equipment and supplies, motor vehicle parts, basic chemicals, computer equipment, and resin and synthetic rubber.
In addition to export initiatives, the ECD International Division will proactively identify and recruit new foreign direct investment into the state. Four Investment Recruitment Offices have been established in Japan, Germany serving the entire European Union, Canada and the United Kingdom. Tennessee is home to 834 foreign-owned companies, investing $24 billion and employing almost 110,000 Tennesseans.