Charleston region export plan calls for collaboration and funds
Combining public and private resources and fundraising for operation costs are some of the key pieces in a new initiative intended to grow exports in the Charleston region.
World Trade Center Charleston, a part of Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, unveiled the Charleston Metro Export Plan in a 16-page report released during a luncheon in North Charleston Thursday.
The plan calls for developing a system that coordinates experts across several organizations, celebrating the success of large exporters such as Boeing, in addition to utilizing the Port of Charleston and targeting specific economic clusters for trade with the region, said Jeff Cain, director of World Trade Center Charleston.
The initiative will also a create a regional export council and launch fundraising to implement project management, trade services and marketing administrative support. The expense will require $255,000 in fundraising for next three years, according to the report.
“This is an effort that is critical to not just this region but to economic growth of the state and the country as a whole,” said Maerk Gootman, director of strategic partnerships at the Brookings Institution.
Gootman said companies that partake in exporting generally hire more staff and pay higher wages compared to companies that do not reach overseas.
The plan for Charleston is intended to grow export intensity from 11 percent to 20 percent and add thousands of jobs, officials said.
The largest demographic being targeted in the export plan are small and medium-sized companies, which officials have said is a segment that is largely unfamiliar with how do business overseas.
Earlier this year, the World Trade Center Charleston unveiled “Charleston Metropolitan Area Export Strategy” with the Brookings Institute.
Last year, Brookings identified Charleston as one of eight communities selected to participate in its Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program, which is charged with developing plans to increase exports based on local assets and capacities.
South Carolina sold $25.3 billion in goods to overseas buyers in 2012, a record-setting year boosted by shipments of luxury BMWs, car tires and electrical machinery, officials said. The Charleston metro region exported more than $2.4 billion in merchandise in 2012, up nearly 6 percent from 2011.
The export market is the next frontier for growth of the nation’s business marketplace, officials said.
“Exports are gong to be a critical leading driver of growth in the next economy,” Gootman said.
He added that the region’s ports may also be used for growing more exports from the region.
The idea was lauded by Jim Newsome, president and CEO of the S.C. State Ports Authority, who said businesses are drawn to communities with such assets.
“The Charleston area is primed to support additional exporting activity, due to availability of resources, the connectivity of our transportation network and by leveraging Charleston’s depth advantage within the region,” Newsome said.
Reach Tyrone Richardson at 937-5550 and follow him on Twitter @tyrichardsonPC.