For Regional Firms Considering Exports, Federal Offices Offer Free Guidance


In a time of economic challenge, exports can generate revenues, create high-paying jobs and bolster the regional and national economies. But many small- and medium-sized firms shy away from the intricacies and unknowns of international trade. Yet for companies in Greater Philadelphia, no- or low-cost help is readily available nearby at the Center City Philadelphia and Lawrenceville, NJ offices of the U.S. Commercial Service (CS), the trade promotions arm of the U.S. Department of Commerce's International Trade Administration.

“There is so much untapped potential,” said Tony Ceballos, director of the Philadelphia U.S. Export Assistance Center, which covers the eastern one-third of Pennsylvania and Delaware. (The Lawrenceville office covers southern and much of central Jersey.) In Pennsylvania, for example, he said, there are only 13,000 companies making exports, out of hundreds of thousands of companies. In Delaware, there are only 900 exporters, “so there is a lot of money left on the table.”

And he offers a strong argument for why regional firms should consider export: 95% of the world's consumers are located beyond U.S. borders. Export wages are typically 13 to 18% higher than non-export wages and exporters are generally more recession-proof because of their diversified sales portfolio. Ceballos said that some regional firms have told him they would not be surviving the current economic downturn without their export business.

The top export industry throughout the region is industrial chemicals, Ceballos said. Also strong are machinery, pre-fabricated metals, building products, computer software and peripherals, drugs and pharmaceuticals. Canada, Mexico, the UK, Japan and Germany are large export markets and Ceballos sees emerging markets in Brazil, India and China as strong opportunities for regional firms.

With 109 offices in 48 states and 124 offices in nearly 80 countries, CS offers services including industry-specific trade shows, business matchmaking, market research, consulting and counseling on matters such as trade finance, risk mitigation, finance, legal and regulatory issues. (CS works with regional banks, attorneys, etc., as resources for the prospective exporters.)

A number of companies in Greater Philadelphia have grown their export business with help from CS.

Read more here, at Select Greater Philadelphia.