Did you know that land-locked Utah is a trade surplus state, to the tune of $4 billion annually, and the ninth best for export growth? International trade is very good for Utah and the state’s economy wouldn’t be nearly so robust without it.
That’s the message World Trade Center Utah (WTC Utah) President and CEO Derek B. Miller hopes Utah business, government, education and civic leaders remember as the national debate becomes increasingly vitriolic and isolationist regarding trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP). He says the countries included in these two trade agreements account for 64 percent of the world’s GDP and adds, “These two agreements are important for the U.S. and especially important for Utah because the state has a competitive advantage in many of the industries that could become more accessible to Utah companies.”
WTC Utah, an EDCUtah partner since 2011, is the designated export promotion arm of the state and Miller says the mission of his organization is to help Utah companies think, act and succeed globally. What with 22 percent of all Utah jobs supported directly or indirectly by international business, growing exports is a critical component in sustaining the state’s diverse economy.
Utah businesses are increasingly taking advantage of opportunities in the global marketplace. Miller says the state’s exports grew from $12.3 billion in 2014 to $13.3 billion in 2015, an eight percent increase in just one year. “That is an astounding number when you consider the slowdown in the global economy, turmoil and violence around the world and a strong U.S. dollar, which has a dampening effect on U.S. exports generally,” he adds.
Small- to medium-sized businesses make up the bulk of the state’s exporters. Examples of Utah businesses selling their products and services in the global marketplace include Clearfield-based Lifetime Products; the outdoor recreation products company Black Diamond; the agri-business company Ten Plus Hay in Washington County; Salt Lake City-based PMI Foods, an exporter of meat and seafood; Cache Valley-based Butchers Bunches, which sells its organic jams around the world; and the Cicero Group, which exports data analytics and strategic consulting services to foreign markets.
“Given that foreign borders account for 95 percent of the world’s consumers, 85 percent of economic growth and 70 percent of the world’s purchasing power, it only makes sense for Utah businesses to grow their businesses through the global marketplace,” says Miller. “Therefore, we put our energy into helping more Utah companies export. It has been proven that the financial return for companies that export is higher than it is for those that don’t. The opportunities that exist outside of the U.S. are plentiful, and as Utah companies succeed internationally, they increase production, which means they hire new employees. All of this leads to a strengthened Utah economy.”
WTC Utah provides a wide variety of international trade services, in addition to education and networking, to assist and motivate Utah businesses to establish or expand their international presence. The organization’s services include trade and market research, training seminars, regional forums and newsletters focused on international business development, trade issues and export opportunities.
The organization also helps build the capacity of Utah businesses for international trade through B2B consultations to identify expansion goals, assess current capabilities, determine overseas opportunities and connect companies with market experts and potential partners. WTC Utah also works to expand the global network for Utah businesses through trade missions and connections with foreign trade officials.
To ensure its services are available to businesses in all areas of the state, Miller says WTC Utah partnered with the Department of Workforce Services to kick off its rural outreach efforts in 2014. With less than one percent of total Utah exports coming from rural small-medium sized businesses, rural Utah is well positioned to be a source of growth for the economy in the coming years as companies look to take their products to international markets.
Each year WTC Utah also partners with the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and the Salt Lake Chamber to produce the Utah Global Forum, which is the state’s premier international trade event. The Utah Global Forum is attended by more than 400 business leaders, diplomats and community leaders. Miller says the purpose of the event is to provide businesses with knowledge and resources so they feel empowered to export for the first time or expand into new markets. The 2016 Utah Global Forum is scheduled for October 24.