According to the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C.-based non-partisan think tank, companies that export are driving economic growth. Global companies pay higher average wages, contribute more to R&D and increase productivity through the infusion of new technologies and practices. Companies that do business internationally also enjoy higher revenues, grow at a faster rate and achieve greater corporate valuations than non-exporting companies. Likewise, the entire region benefits from global exporters. From 2003-’12, regional economic output remained flat. Taking a closer look at the figures, non-export derived output decreased 5.7 percent while exporting grew at 45.4 percent, thereby offsetting the decline in domestic output.
In November 2015, The Milwaukee 7 Regional Economic Development Partnership launched the Export Development Grant Program presented by JPMorgan Chase. The program provides financial assistance to small and medium enterprises, both new to export as well as experienced exporters, to enter new markets by accessing resources, overcoming obstacles and seizing on opportunities internationally.[caption id="attachment_138312" align="alignright" width="150"] Hoffman[/caption]
The Export Development Grant Program is part of the Global Cities Initiative, a joint project between the Brookings Institution and JPMorgan Chase. Southeastern Wisconsin is one of 28 regions participating in the project, which began in 2012. By adopting “best practices” from Global Cities programs in other markets, the Milwaukee 7 has created a tailored program to deliver the assistance that companies require, as efficiently and as timely as possible.
The program provides matching funds of up to $5,000 per company. The funding can be used for a multitude of export-related purposes and may also be combined with grants offered by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. Companies are asked to provide a narrative explaining how the funding will help grow exports. Any and all uses of the funds will be considered and, to date, 17 companies have been awarded funding for a variety of uses, including attending foreign tradeshows, attaining foreign approvals, translating marketing material and websites, utilizing the U.S. Commercial Service and attending ExporTech.
In addition to providing financial assistance to companies to grow internationally, the Export Development Grant Program is also designed to provide companies with information on the many local, state and federal resources available to them and to provide introductions directly to these resources when appropriate. Even companies already exposed to global markets are often too consumed with day-to-day operations to actively seek out resources and, therefore, many companies are not aware that many of these programs exist, let alone take advantage of them. Examples of lesser-known programs include: IC-DISC, Foreign Trade Zones, Trade Adjustment Assistance, the EX-IM Bank and Duty Drawbacks. As part of the Export Development Grant Program, the Milwaukee 7 now offers a complimentary export assessment to better understand a company’s current situation, review the programs and resources and make recommendations on next steps.
Representatives from the Wisconsin Extended Export Partnership comprise the Export Development Grant Program’s Steering Committee, which assisted in the creation of the program and which is also provided monthly updates on the status of the program. A separate Grants Committee was formed consisting of prominent individuals with decades of international experience to review applications and award funding to qualifying companies.
The Export Development Grant Program directly contributes to fostering an international business culture within the region. As more companies realize the growth potential international markets represent, it is more likely companies will become proactive with regard to exports. By continuing to promote the Grant Program and the resulting company success stories, manufacturers and service providers alike will be influenced to consider opportunities internationally. Even companies that consider themselves to be experienced exporters will benefit from the program. For more information or to apply, please visit: http://mke7.com/exporting.
The second core component of the Global Cities Initiative has centered on creating targeted strategies to attract and leverage foreign direct investment. Exports and FDI are inextricably linked: industry clusters that generate exports also attract FDI companies; mergers and acquisitions is the preferred route of entry for international companies and the target firms tend to be exporters; in addition, most high potential under-exporters and new FDI establishments are mid-market firms and the best way to boost both exports and FDI is by working with existing firms.
The Global MKE Trade and Investment Plan combines these export and FDI strategies into a single, highly coordinated plan with a common goal and objectives to strengthen the region’s global connections and support sustainable economic growth. The Milwaukee region’s economic future depends on a focused and aggressive global trade and investment agenda that better positions the region’s firms to compete in world markets. n
-Chad Hoffman is export development manager for Milwaukee 7.