Wisconsin is helping fuel America's economic upswing, and a number of Milwaukee-area businesses should take credit.
Last month, Milwaukee's own Master Lock served as the backdrop for the launch of President Obama's new "Insourcing American Jobs" initiative. The President praised Master Lock for bringing 100 jobs back to Milwaukee, and noted that manufacturing has re-emerged as an economic driver. Indeed, over the last two years, American manufacturers have added 334,000 jobs.
As BizTimes editor Steve Jagler noted in a recent blog post, the Master Lock story provides a fine example of labor, business, and government working together. The collaboration allowed a local business to manufacture more products to sell, create jobs for Wisconsinites, and keep America's economic engine churning. It's a phenomenal effort, and an example that other American businesses should follow. But it's only half the story.
We operate in a global marketplace, where approximately 95 percent of the world's consumers live beyond America's borders. During the next five years, the International Monetary Fund estimates that 85 percent of world economic growth will take place outside of the United States. There is a growing need for products and services that U.S. businesses—more importantly, Milwaukee businesses— can fill.
This month marks the two-year anniversary of the President's National Export Initiative (NEI), an ambitious effort to double U.S. exports by the end of 2014 and support American jobs. As we celebrate America's success in moving closer to that goal – in 2011, national exports reached a record $2.1 trillion - we also laud cities like Milwaukee for making it possible.
Exporting success stories are happening in your own backyard. Milwaukee-based Bentley World Packaging credits its strong exporting business with the company's ability to weather the recession. Racine-based InSinkErator has grown exports by more than 30 percent in each of the past two years, which also helped to mitigate layoffs and staff reductions. The well-known Johnsonville Sausage in Sheboygan Falls has seen its exports sales increase 65 percent since 2009.
These companies are improving our economy, and their efforts should be emulated. Ensuring that Milwaukee businesses continue to fuel Wisconsin's – and America's – economic growth through exporting will require a number of important commitments shared by federal, state, and local leaders.
Nationally, we must continue to provide American businesses additional resources to make exporting easier and ensure a level playing field. The International Trade Administration (ITA) actively links U.S. companies with promising growth markets and industries through a network of experienced staff in more than 100 offices nationwide, and in more than 70 countries around the world.
We must also work more closely with states and municipalities, encouraging them to think of exports as a core element in their economic development strategies and establish strong export promotion. Currently, through the Metropolitan Export Initiative, a joint project between ITA and the Brookings Institution, we have forged critical collaborations among federal, state, and metropolitan area leaders to support exporting at the local level.
As we celebrate the success of the NEI and its positive impact on our economy, we must also commit to ensuring that its momentum continues in Milwaukee and throughout Wisconsin. As we support companies like Master Lock for insourcing American jobs, we must also support and promote exporting "success stories" like Bentley World Packaging, InSinkErator, and Johnsonville Sausage. Exporting makes good economic sense – and American workers deserve nothing less.
Francisco Sánchez is the Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade. He leads the International Trade Administration, a federal agency that promotes U.S. businesses and competiveness with commercial offices across the United States and the globe.