Resources the Government Offers to Help American Companies Export

On 12 October, 2011 much to the dismay of the remaining protections in the country and a few special interests groups, the United States signed new trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Columbia. Ironically the country that preaches the most about free and uninhibited trade is also the same country with the fewest trade agreements when compared to countries around the world. In a desperate effort to reduce unemployment however, the U.S. is looking to create partnerships with counterparts overseas, and government officials at the local, state and federal level want to create jobs by helping businesses increase sales to customers abroad.

For business owners and managers interested in exporting there are several resources available to answer frequently asked questions about doing business overseas. The first place to look is your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) which are located across all fifty states and provides free business consulting to existing businesses and those looking to start a new venture. While most SBDC consultants aren’t experts specifically in international trade they help entrepreneurs with the process of starting a business and can suggest whether a sole proprietorship, LLC, corporation or other business structure would be best. Entrepreneurs can also turn to SBDC’s for help with marketing, finance, finding the right target market for their products or services and assistance in developing a business plan. SBDC consultants are able to answer most questions, but if you happen to stump one of them with a technical question specific to your industry, they will at least be able to point you to someone who does have an answer.

For business owners looking to export there are websites such as where you can find important resources to take your business global such as, “Six Steps to Begin Exporting”. From here you can:

1)      Take an export readiness self-assessment
2)      Identify which state and federal agencies would provide the most help for your specific needs.
3)      Create an export business plan
4)      Conduct market research
5)      Find buyers
6)      Identify sources to finance your international trade venture

If you’re interested in going overseas to a trade show or meet with prospective customers the U.S. Dept of Commerce offers the Gold Key Service. For a minimal price you can travel overseas and have the Dept of Commerce schedule face to face meetings, help you become acclimated to local culture and many of the other services they provide.

Business owners looking to finance their exports can turn to the Small Business Administration (SBA) or even the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im Bank). The SBA offers capital through Export Express and other types of loans available to U.S. merchants to assist with any aspect of exporting products to a foreign country. The Ex-Im Bank is an independent government agency that provides financing to foreign buyers that purchase American goods.

In addition to all of the above, the Small Business Jobs Act that was signed into law by President Obama last year has provided funding to increase the resources available to help small businesses export. In New Mexico for example, the Gateway to Exporting program was initiated and consultants work with purchasing managers of large multinational corporations abroad to identify what products they are looking to source and try to find companies in the state that sell those products. Consultants conduct preliminary research for clients in New Mexico and find them customers abroad by making phone calls, sending emails and visiting factories in foreign countries.

Government officials are eager to make significant strides to lower the unemployment rate and even though they can’t agree on anything else  it appears everyone agrees we can lower our unemployment rate by helping business owners export. With so many resources available, now is as good a time as any to look for new customers overseas.


Disclosure: I work with the SBDC network and am a consultant with the Gateway to Exporting Program in New Mexico, but even if I wasn’t I would recommend working with them anyway.

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