Exports fuel Baltimore's, nation's economic growth

Today marks the second anniversary of President Barack Obama's National Export Initiative (NEI), an ambitious effort to double U.S. exports by the end of 2014 and support millions of American jobs. In 2011, U.S. goods and services exports reached a record $2.1 trillion and supported the growth of American businesses across the country. Moreover, our economy has added private sector jobs for 24 straight months.

Cities like Baltimore are fueling America's exporting growth. According to new data from the Department of Commerce's International Trade Administration (ITA), which I lead, the Baltimore metropolitan area was one of the nation's largest exporters of transportation equipment in 2010.

We operate in a global marketplace. During the next five years, the International Monetary Fund estimates that 85 percent of world economic growth will take place outside of the United States. There is a growing global need for products and services that businesses in Baltimore and across the nation can fill.

Take Baltimore-based Ellicott Dredges, the oldest and largest U.S. manufacturer of dredging equipment. The company's dredges are used in ports as well as for mining, wastewater, flood control and real estate development throughout Brazil, Russia, India and China. Ellicott posted record export revenues in three of the last four years. The company's 2011 exports were roughly five times what they were in 2006. Ellicott now sells its Baltimore-made dredges in more than 25 countries, and, as a result, it has increased its workforce by 10 percent.

This type of success is not only something for Baltimore to be proud of but to rally behind. And it all starts with businesses and government working together to take advantage of a unique window of opportunity. To stay on this promising trajectory will require a number of important commitments shared by federal, state and local leaders.

Nationally, we must continue to remove barriers to international trade and provide American businesses additional resources to make exporting easier and ensure a level playing field. The ITA actively links U.S. companies with promising growth markets and industries through our network of experienced staff in more than 100 offices nationwide and in more than 70 countries around the world.

We must continue to support investment in our seaports. Ocean transport carries more U.S. international merchandise than air cargo, trucks, railroads and pipelines combined. In 2011, $570 billion in exports flowed through America's seaports — a 25 percent increase from 2010. We all know that the Port of Baltimore ranks among the largest in the United States and is a key driver of the local economy.

Last month, the Port of Baltimore signed a memorandum of understanding with the Port of Mundra in India to meet India's infrastructure needs while supporting America's jobs. Today, the Port of Baltimore and ITA signed a memorandum of agreement to expand cooperation on export promotion activities here at home. These are perfect examples of partnerships that support the Baltimore economy.

Finally, we must work with states and municipalities to think of exports as a core element in their economic development strategies and to establish strong export promotion. Baltimore and Maryland are fortunate to have elected leaders who understand and support the importance of partnerships to promote fair and open trade. Maryland's growth in exports demonstrates the return on investment for promoting exports. Gov. Martin O'Malley, Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Benjamin L. Cardin and the state's House members deserve credit for creating an environment that encourages local businesses to think globally.

As we celebrate the success of the National Export Initiative and its positive effect on our economy, we must also commit to ensuring that its momentum continues in Baltimore. Providing more opportunities and support for U.S. companies to export their goods and services makes good economic sense — and American workers deserve nothing less.

Francisco J. Sánchez, the under secretary of commerce for international trade, leads the International Trade Administration, which promotes U.S. businesses and competitiveness. He can be reached at facebook.com/tradegov.

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