When President Obama signed the Food Farm and Jobs Act on February 7th he directed his Administration, working through the White House Rural Council, to lead a new “Made in Rural America” export and investment initiative. Specifically, the President has instructed his Rural Council – in coordination with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Small Business Administration, the Export-Import Bank, the Office of the United States Trade Representative, and other agencies – to commit to connecting more rural businesses of all types to export information and assistance.
One example of what USDA will do in support of the Made In Rural America export and investment initiative is host training sessions to equip local USDA Rural Development staff in all 50 states plus territories with the tools they need to counsel businesses on export opportunities and resources. The Department of Commerce, through the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee, will cross-train USDA Rural Development staff so they can better deliver support or refer rural businesses to federal services.
The blog below, cross-posted from the White House Rural Council blog, highlights the impact that the Made In Rural America Initiative will have with our partners at the Appalachian Regional Commission.
Forty-two percent of the Appalachian Region’s population lives in rural areas. President Obama’s Made in Rural America export and investment initiative presents a strategic opportunity to expand the region’s exporting sector, grow jobs, and ensure long-term sustainable growth. It is one more example of how the White House Rural Council works to provide economic opportunity in rural America.
Over and over, my travels throughout the region have underscored the role that expanded export markets can have in creating jobs and strengthening local economies. Yet many small businesses in Appalachia view entering the export market as a daunting challenge, something they haven’t really focused on before. The President’s proposal is specially designed to help these rural companies get in the export game by connecting them to export information and assistance. These additional resources will strengthen the capacity of Appalachian business to compete and succeed in the global economy of the 21st century.
Rural enterprises from across Appalachia have a history of demonstrating their competitive success in capturing new export opportunities. In September 2013, an Appalachia USA delegation of 18 home furnishing and wood product enterprises generated over $50 million in new export sales at the FMC international trade show in Shanghai, China. One month earlier, a 22-member mining equipment, technology, and service delegation achieved similar export success from their Appalachia USA pavilion at the Asia-Pacific International Mining Exhibition in Sydney, Australia.
First-time export ventures are a challenge but they offer the potential of significantly expanded markets. At the U.S. Commercial Service 2013 Trade Winds Business Forum in Seoul, South Korea, Appalachia USA delegates from a small manufacturing enterprise in Sistersville, West Virginia seized the opportunity to make their first sales into the global market. It is small manufacturers like this who will have greater opportunities under the President’s plan.
By creating a comprehensive strategy connecting federal resources with rural leaders and businesses to expand exports, the Made in Rural America initiative will bring new and welcome energy to Appalachia’s growing export sector. The President’s initiative will help increase the number of small manufacturers who can succeed, and it will help Appalachian businesses sell to the world.