Initiative Plans to Increase Local Exports


At roughly $82 trillion, the world gross domestic product has more than doubled since 1989. Demand for global products is unprecedented, offering significant export opportunities for U.S. companies of all sizes. Yet many companies in the Richmond region choose not to export, according to data compiled by the Metro Richmond Exports Initiative (MREI).

The MREI, a unique two-year project led by Virginia Commonwealth University’s Center for Urban and Regional Analysis, Virginia’s Gateway Region and the Greater Richmond Partnership (GRP), surveyed hundreds of businesses and local, regional and state officials to benchmark the area’s export climate and develop a specific plan to grow it.
The goal of the MREI is bold: increase exports from small and medium-sized Richmond-area businesses by 40 percent by 2020. The project is being funded by JPMorgan Chase with a matching contribution from the Virginia Economic Development Partnership’s (VEDP) International Trade Division.

Survey results show that 83 percent of businesses in the region are not exporting their products and services. Roughly half said they would consider exporting if they could identify the right markets and obtain financing.
“Metro Richmond has a diverse array of industries, ranging from agriculture, to manufacturing, to engineering and management services,” says John Accordino, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Urban and Regional Analysis and Interim Dean of the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at VCU. “Every one of these industries has companies that make products and services that can be exported to a world that is eager to buy ‘Made in America.’ Through the initiative, these companies will find the services and resources that help them realize their export potential, and that will help to grow the region’s economy.”

Why Export?

“We want Henrico businesses to continue to grow and be successful,” says Felicia Ainsa, Existing Business Manager, Henrico County Economic Development Authority (EDA). Ainsa, along with Curtis Cobert, the EDA’s Existing Business Representative, has been tasked with helping existing businesses gain access to the proper resources to ensure growth.Their work is part of Henrico County’s larger effort to support existing companies in Henrico. “When we think about the fact that 96 percent of the world’s population lives outside of the United States, exporting just makes sense,” adds Ainsa. “This is a fantastic way for Henrico companies to enlarge their market share.”

Exporting is good for companies and for the regions in which they’re located. In 2015, exports generated $36 billion in revenue for Virginia, bringing $18.7 billion in income wages back into the state – as well as $2 billion in tax revenue – according to Todd Haymore, Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade, in his remarks during the initiative’s unveiling ceremony on September 8.

“Growing our existing companies is a top priority for Henrico. Companies that export hire more people and typically can pay higher wages than companies not engaged in exporting. The MREI will give us another great tool to use in our efforts to offer services and resources our companies will need to continue to grow in Henrico and compete in the global marketplace.”
– Curtis Cobert, Henrico EDA

According to MREI research, 81 percent of global demand for products and services of the sort that American firms produce or could produce will come from other countries – not the United States – between 2015 and 2020.
To swing that stat in favor of Richmond-region businesses, the MREI project team will spearhead the development of a regional export website, which will interface with the VEDP portal, to market the MREI’s assistance and the region’s export services. The team will also oversee numerous new export programs and grants and generate media and marketing materials.

For example, an “Exporting 101” course will also be developed and offered through the Community College Workforce Alliance (CCWA). The purpose of the course is to give business owners an opportunity to learn more about exporting without making a large investment. The class will be a good starting point for local business owners – and appropriate for every level of export experience.

Do you own a business in Henrico County? Now is a great time to explore exporting! Contact the Henrico County Economic Development Authority today and let us put our knowledge and resources to work for you.

The EDA will be hosting a Lunch and Learn about this initiative at our office on Monday, November 28. Please contact us for more information.

This article was originially published on the HenricoNOW website.