By: Cassius Butts, Regional Administrator U.S. Small Business Administration
In today's global economy, selling goods around the world can bring large rewards. It just makes good business sense to expand your prospective customer base to the more than 95 percent of the world’s population outside our country whose demand for American goods is growing every day.
Small businesses now constitute 34 percent of total export dollars, and comprise approximately 97.8 percent of all exporters. At the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) we provide counseling, training and financing to ensure that small businesses have the tools they need to tap into the global market—and we’re seeing results. Since FY 2009, SBA has guaranteed 6,400 loans to small business exporters for over $3.3 billion and supported more than $6.3 billion in exports.
The SBA and other Federal partners are all working toward the goal, set by President Obama through the National Export Initiative, to double our exports by 2014. To help us reach that goal, the President recently signed trade agreements with Colombia, South Korea, and Panama to expand export markets for American companies. Additionally, in his State of the Union, the President announced that we will do more by launching talks on a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union. This National Export Initiative is a win-win, because access to more markets means more customers, more sales of U.S. goods and more jobs here at home.
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration, exports are vital to Florida’s economy. In 2009, export-supported jobs linked to manufacturing accounted for an estimated 1.8 percent of Florida's total private-sector employment. One-seventh (14.2 percent) of all manufacturing workers in Florida depend on exports for their jobs. More impressive is the role that Florida’s small businesses play in exports. A total of 39,643 companies exported from Florida locations in 2010. Of those, 38,077 (96 percent) were small and medium-sized enterprises with fewer than 500 employees. Furthermore, small and medium-sized firms generated over two-thirds (68 percent) of Florida's total exports of merchandise in 2010.
I’m proud of the work SBA’s South Florida District Office has accomplished in working with our lenders to make capital available to fuel export entrepreneurship. In 2012, 79 loans totaling more than $53.5 million were approved specifically for creating and building export business in south Florida.
If you are a small business looking to export, U.S. Export Assistance Centers are a great resource. The mission of the Export Assistance Centers, which are staffed by professionals from SBA, Department of Commerce, the U.S. Export-Import Bank and other public and private organizations, is to provide the help that small businesses need to compete in today's global marketplace. South Florida is served by three centers located at: 5835 Blue Lagoon Dr. Ste. 203, Miami; 1850 Eller Drive, Ste 401, Fort Lauderdale; and 13805 58th Street N., Ste 1-200, Clearwater.
SBA has made it a priority to help small business exporters by providing a number of loan programs specifically designed to help develop or expand export activities. If you own or wish to start a small export business, the following SBA loans may be available to you:
- The Export Express Loan Program offers streamlined financing up to $500,000. It is the simplest export loan product offered by the SBA. Any business in operation at least one year that can demonstrate that the loan proceeds will support its export activity is eligible.
- The Export Working Capital Program offers financing up to $5 million as a credit enhancement. This program is delivered through SBA Senior International Credit Officers located in U.S. Export Assistance Centers.
- International Trade Loan Program offers loan financing for fixed assets and working capital to businesses that plan to start or continue exporting, or that have been adversely affected by competition from imports.
If you already export your goods or services around the world and have used a federal government program or assistance to get there, the SBA also has something for you. SBA and Visa have launched the “2013 Export Video Contest” that will offer current small business exporters the opportunity to educate other small businesses about the benefits of exporting and the government programs that can help. Winners can receive up to $10,000 in prize money from Visa. We’re accepting entries through April 5, 2013. Visit challenge.gov for more information on eligibility and contest rules.
If you're ready to explore the possibilities and challenges of exporting, SBA and the federal government’s trade promotion and export finance agencies are ready to help U.S. businesses meet the challenge. Whether your firm is new to exporting or in need of a refresher on the latest ideas and techniques, www.export.gov provides need-to-know information for small businesses on how to meet the challenges of the world economy.
For more information, visit us on the web at www.sba.gov/southflorida.