WSDA: State initiative helps post strong export figures

Washington State reported strong Fiscal Year 2012 sales of $198.2 million from state export assistance, the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) and Department of Commerce announced. Both agencies are encouraging and helping more businesses to pursue export strategies.

State programs at Commerce and WSDA provide small and medium-sized businesses with export training and counseling, facilitate international trade show and trade mission participation, and assist with trading partner and market introductions.

Clients using WSDA export assistance saw sales grow to $120 million for fiscal year 2012, up more than $25 million from 2011. Businesses reported $78.2 million in Commerce-assisted sales for FY 2012, well above their Washington Export Initiative (WEI) 2012 target of $60 million. The combined agency figures represent 1,257 jobs.

Since the WEI launch, 1,038 new-to-export companies have been assisted by Commerce, WSDA, and the Community Economic Revitalization Board’s export training programs. Today, over 8,400 Washington companies export, well on the way to meeting the WEI goal of 10,500 by 2015. The 2012 Washington Export Initiative Report Executive Summary is available from the Commerce website media center.

“With one in three Washington jobs relying on trade, we must stay focused on our strengths and opportunities in the international marketplace,” said Gov. Chris Gregoire. “Our recent mission to India and Korea is a high-profile example of our ongoing effort to expand the economic benefits of trade. We are also pursuing a year-round strategy to grow jobs in Washington through exports and attracting foreign direct investment. The Washington Export Initiative is working and we must continue this effort to support economic development in communities across the state.”

“We’ve seen that many companies growing through the recession are those that access global markets. This is especially true in our traditionally strong sectors of agriculture, aviation and aerospace, software and global health-life sciences,” said Commerce Director Rogers Weed.

Four percent of Washington companies are engaged in exporting today—four times the national average.

The WSDA International Marketing Program continues to pay for itself, with $4.83 in additional tax revenues due to economic development for every taxpayer dollar invested in the program. WSDA is on track with its goal—announced in 2010—of assisting an additional 1,000 exporters in reaching $300 million in export sales by 2015.

“Our state’s agricultural export efforts are showing record results with $8.6 billion in Washington-origin products going to foreign markets through our ports last year,” said Dan Newhouse, director of the Washington State Department of Agriculture. “We continue to attract new Washington farms and food businesses gaining sales through exports. Our recent visits to India and Korea show there’s room for more growth particularly in Asia.”

WSDA will again use federal grant funding to finance a Southeast Asia joint trade mission with Oregon next fall that will expand export opportunities for potato, tree fruit, and wine producers. The mission will build upon a joint effort in 2011 when the two states visited government officials and buyers in Vietnam, Hong Kong and Singapore.

“Working with the Department of Agriculture has been beneficial for us to increase our chances for export sales,” said Butch Milbrandt of Milbrandt Vineyards in Mattawa, Wash. “WSDA has introduced us to buyers from around the world, greatly enhancing our export program. Most recently, they brought 10 buyers from four countries to our vineyard. This is particularly helpful, because when we can get buyers seeing our operation first hand, it increases our opportunities for exports.”

Commerce received $3 million from the Small Business Administration to promote exports (STEP grant), which helped increase export assistance to 283 small businesses since 2011. Five companies used a successful export voucher program under STEP to participate in the Governor’s final trade mission to India and Korea. The STEP grant also funded development of, a portal to trade resources that help small companies enter new international markets or begin exporting for the first time.

One company contributing to growing export sales is MetalTech, a metal tooling and production shop in Sumner, WA. The company attended the Farnborough International Air Show for the first time in July 2012 as part of a Commerce delegation, and scored a number of high-ticket contracts from new customers in the European aerospace sector. To date, Washington companies that participated on the Governor’s summer trade mission have reported actual and projected sales of just under $12.5 million.

“Attending Farnborough created incredible opportunities and gave us a better understanding of how to position ourselves as a global competitor,” said TJ Richards, MetalTech general manager. “It became clear to us that the way to compete is through our efficiency. If a company produces a part in five steps, we will do it in four and still win that contract with our emphasis on quality.”

Washington companies showcase their successful international strategies in a series of videos to help other businesses see the real potential of exports and learn how to connect with the services available through Commerce, WSDA and their partners.

For more information about the Washington Export Initiative and state export assistance programs, visit and