LOUISVILLE – Louisville and Lexington companies have the capacity to significantly increase their exports — and thus grow the regional economy and create jobs — if business leaders have support when accessing foreign markets. A new program, fueled in part by Louisville Metro’s Innovation Delivery Team, aims to help businesses navigate the complexities of international business and begin exporting their products and services. The goal is to increase the number of companies that export by 50 percent within the next five years, according to a state news release.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and Lexington Mayor Jim Gray announced the export initiative — ‘Build it Locally, Sell it Globally’ — at Monday’s meeting of the Bluegrass Economic Advancement Movement, which the mayors formed last year to grow manufacturing and logistics jobs in the region. BEAM is developing a regional business strategy with the assistance of the Brookings Institution in Washington D.C.
Fischer’s Innovation Delivery Team, funded by a $4.8 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies, will assist the BEAM effort by providing project management and support on the export strategy. The team will ensure the strategy is implemented and that various groups — from business to government and political leaders — are engaged in the effort to ensure success.
The export initiative includes:
· Creating an export partnership with the Louisville and Lexington governments, the chambers of commerce and United Parcel Service;
· Identifying industry clusters that are ripe for export opportunities;
· Creating a mentoring program for small companies that want to export;
· Providing individual counseling for export-ready companies;
The work will build on and expand the work of World Trade Center Kentucky, the state’s leading provider of trade consulting, trade education and trade missions.
“There are many small and medium-sized companies in Louisville and Lexington that could sell their products and ideas to a foreign market but many don’t know where to start,” Fischer said. “This initiative aims to fill that gap.”
“There is opportunity for growth in both cities,” Gray said. “Lexington and Louisville already have some strong exporters but we believe that a strategic focus will lead to new jobs for our entire Commonwealth.”
Amy Liu, of the Brookings Institution, said the export initiative is a critical component of the regional business plan being developed along the I-64 corridor between Louisville and Lexington.
“Goods comprise two-thirds of the nation’s exports,” Liu said. “Manufacturing matters to exports and global market access is the key to the future of manufacturing.”
The export initiative is the 6th project to be announced by Mayor Fischer’s six-member Innovation Delivery Team to help bring innovation and breakthrough ideas to improve city services.
Fischer said the work of the Innovation Delivery Team fits well into the BEAM project, which is designed to nurture and support manufacturers and their supply chains to create quality jobs and increase exports.
“Exports are a key driver of economic growth, which is why we are announcing today that the first BEAM initiative will be to expand our region’s exports,” said Margaret Handmaker, director of the Innovation Delivery Team and a leader of the BEAM initiative. “Our goal is straightforward – ‘build it locally, sell it globally.’ This builds on our existing strengths in manufacturing and logistics.”