As a regional trade finance specialist with the U.S. Small Business Administration, I enjoy an opportunity to speak with small business exporters in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. I hear from a great variety of businesses — from vitamin supplement makers shipping to Asia to aircraft component suppliers shipping to South America to design firms building in the Middle East. All these companies share one thing in common: They’ve found an innovative way to bring a product or service to new markets.
Globalization, the Internet and container shipping have made it easier than ever for small businesses, including those located in rural areas, to reach the 95 percent of consumers who don’t live in the United States. Exporting gives small businesses the opportunities to tap into new markets, increase sales, generate economies of scale and improve inventory management.
During the economic downturn, many U.S. business have taken advantage of the opportunities exporting presents. According to the Census Bureau, U,S. exports are up 33 percent since 2009. The number of companies exporting is up 6 percent to almost 300,000.
Despite this trend, millions of small businesses haven’t yet taken that next step to exporting. For some, shipping products overseas is daunting. Complying with U.S. and foreign regulations as well as the fear of not getting paid hinder companies from engaging in international trade.
This should not be the case. There are resources throughout our region to assist companies to get into the export game and realize the benefits of international trade.
The SBA offers free one-on-one counseling to small businesses through its network of resources partners, which includes Small Business Development Centers like the center at the Business Incubator in Grand Junction.
In Denver, there’s an active World Trade Center and U.S. Export Assistance Center. These are staffed by professionals from the SBA, Department of Commerce, U.S. Export-Import Bank and other public and private organizations. Together, their mission is to provide the help you need on the Western Slope to compete in today’s global marketplace. The Denver U.S. Export Assistance Center offers a one-stop shop designed to provide export assistance to small- and medium-sized business.
I’m responsible for assisting small business exporters access SBA export loan programs through our lending partners. The SBA can assist with any type of export finance need, from a standard 7(a) loan with a 90 percent SBA guarantee for real estate and fixed assets to export working capital lines to finance export inventory or receivables.
SBA Export Express loans are available directly from participating lenders. These flexible loans can be used to fund participation in a foreign trade show, translate product literature for use in foreign markets, export-related expansions, equipment purchases and inventory. This year, the SBA has helped 11 Colorado firms access more than $5 million in export financing.
There are a lot of resources out there to assist small businesses export their products and services. Use them.