New Partnership Aims to Double Area Exports by 2017

Several local groups will collaborate with a Washington, D.C.-based organization to develop a plan that will double Twin Cities-area exports over the next five years, increase the number of companies that export, and increase the number of countries that local companies trade with.

Leaders from several of Minnesota's government entities and other organizations have formed a partnership with the Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Institution to develop a plan that will double exports from Twin Cities companies over the next five years, according to a Star Tribune report.

Governor Mark Dayton reportedly kicked off the effort, called MSP Export Initiative, during a trade award ceremony in Minneapolis on Thursday. Brookings is a nonprofit research organization.

The goal of the initiative reportedly is to increase exports from Twin Cities-area companies from $17.6 billion in 2010 to $35 billion by 2017. The initiative also hopes to increase the number of Minnesota companies that export and the number of countries with which Minnesota trades, while adding to the state's 117,000 export-related jobs. To achieve its goals, the initiative will focus on educating small and medium-sized firms, the Star Tribune reported.

“Most companies in the Twin Cities are not aware of the global opportunity or the demand for their goods and service,” Amy Liu, co-director of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, told the Minneapolis newspaper. “They think that focusing only on the domestic market will be sufficient. Frankly they are very comfortable staying with the domestic markets. But going forward, the fundamentals are going to change.”

Brookings reportedly released a report this week that indicated that while large local companies like 3M, Cargill, and General Mills understand the potential of overseas markets, many smaller companies do not.

The report found that the Twin Cities region, which includes parts of Wisconsin, exported $17.6 billion in goods and services in 2010, ranking 14th in the nation. The region's export growth rate, however, ranked 84th in the country between 2003 and 2008 and now stands at 67th place.

Liu added that the pace of export growth in the Twin Cities has been slow in the past decade and post-recession compared to other metro areas of the same size.

According to data released last week by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, companies across the state collectively exported $20.3 billion worth of goods in 2011, up 7.4 percent from $18.9 billion in 2010.

Those involved in the partnership with Brookings include state and city leaders from Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Edina; Enterprise Minnesota; Greater MSP, Inc.; the Minnesota Trade Office; LifeScience Alley; the University of Minnesota; and the Midwest Global Trade Association, among others.

Katie Clark, executive director of the Minnesota Trade Office, told the Star Tribune that while the goal of doubling exports in five years is aggressive, it is attainable.

The Minnesota Trade Office, Enterprise Minnesota, and the U.S. Commerce Department reportedly offer export assistance to Minnesota's small and medium-sized companies. To learn more about those resources and how some local companies have benefited from them, read the full Star Tribune story here.