The Mahoning Valley has a head start on much of the rest of the country in terms of export growth, but there is a lot of growth potential remaining.
The Valley is doing a lot of things right when it comes to exports, said Fred Hochberg, chairman of the Export-Import Bank of the U.S., one of two keynote speakers at the TechBelt Export Summit on Monday at Fellows Riverside Gardens in Youngstown. The purpose of the event was to make business leaders knowledgeable about the local, state and federal assistance available to them to export their products.
“Increasing exports is what we need to do if we’re going to reboot the economy,” he said.
The U.S. has 5 percent of the world’s population and 20 percent of the buying power, Hochberg said.
“It’s not very smart to talk to only 5 percent of the population and ignore everyone else, but that’s what many companies are doing,” he said.
The middle class also is growing throughout the world. By 2020 there will be an additional 600 million people in China alone with similar buying power to the U.S. middle class, Hochberg said. Worldwide, there will be more than 1 billion new people who reach middle- class status.
President Barack Obama set a goal to double exports by 2014, and the goal is halfway toward being met, Hochberg said. In the past 12 months, U.S. companies have exported $2.1 trillion in goods and services — the most ever.
“These have been tough economic times, but I’m bullish that we’re moving toward much better times,” he said.
Between 2009 and 2010 there was a 20 percent growth in exports in this area, said Francisco J. Sanchez, U.S. Under Secretary of Commerce for international trade, the other keynote for the event.
“You’re on the right track,” he said. “Companies that don’t choose to export do so at their own peril.”
Exporting allows companies to reach more customers and attract more money. Sales from exporting bring additional income back to local communities such as the Mahoning Valley, Sanchez said.
Exports have created 1.2 million jobs in the U.S. since 2009, he said.
Government needs to make sure that local companies have an even playing field to compete in the worldwide export market, said U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.
Without some of the efforts made to help U.S. companies compete against countries such as China, V&M Star would not have been able to come to the Mahoning Valley. The devalued currency in China makes it hard for U.S. companies to compete, he said.
“Chinese companies receive a 20 percent advantage when they trade with the U.S. American companies face a 20 percent penalty when they sell to China,” Brown said.
There is a lot of opportunity for growth in terms of exports in the Mahoning Valley over the next 10 to 20 years, said U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-17th.
“We have begun to diversify our economy. We don’t want to put all our eggs in one basket like we did with the steel industry,” he said. “The manufacturing base we have is still an asset. If we want to innovate, we need to make things.”
One of the keys for growth in local exporting is the oil- and-gas industry, said Dan Ujczo from the U.S. SAGE group.
“I was at an event in Calgary, and they stated the work going on in the Utica Shale represented the best technology and practices,” he said. The need exists to get Canadian companies together with those working in the Utica Shale, Ujczo said.