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The Mississippi Development Authority’s (MDA’s) International Trade Office (ITO) has a host of programs to assist Mississippi companies looking to expand their market by exporting.
“Setting up an exporting program can seem daunting, but with a little diligence, nearly any company can significantly expand their addressable market,” said ITO manager Liz Cleveland. “And MDA is ready to assist Mississippi companies all along the way. We can also help companies make contact with other helpful agencies such as the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”
MDA’s international trade programs include educational programs, technical assistance, export consultation and marketing services such as international catalog shows, trade fairs and exhibitions, trade missions and hosting of in-bound missions. Summaries of the export assistance programs are located on the agency Web site, mississippi.org.
“We are currently planning an exhibition that will be attended by mining companies in Chile,” said Cleveland, and “in the fall, we will host a trade mission to China.”
The ITO works with partners such as the Mississippi World Trade Center, the International Small Business Development Center at Hinds Community College and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Export Assistance Center in Jackson.
“Our workshops are especially helpful to small business owners who do not have the manpower and/or time to research exporting procedures themselves,” said Dominique Crouch, trade center assistant for the U.S. Commerce Department in Jackson.
To help small business owners on a local level, the World Trade Center in Jackson established a trade certification program last year for economic developers. In its first program, 28 economic developers were certified.
“We help small and medium firms understand more about export market potential,” said Barbara Travis, executive direct of the World Trade Center. “The reason for the broad-base trade certification program is that, on the local level, professional economic developers are not always trained in trade, but the opportunities continue to grow and they need to be able to help their local firms.”
To better serve Mississippi companies, ITO maintains representation with staff in offices in China, Chile and Japan.
“Mississippi exports continue to expand, with 2004 exports totaling $3.2 billion, a 24% increase over the previous year,” said Cleveland. “Canada and Mexico are Mississippi’s largest trading partners, together representing 37% of the state’s total exports. China was the state’s fifth largest export market, growing from its 10th largest market in 2000.”
NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) continues to positively impact export sales from Mississippi, with exports to Canada up 23% and Mexico up 81% over the previous year. Newly enacted free trade agreements with Australia and Chile hold greater potential because of increased competitiveness of Mississippi products due to elimination of tariffs. Best prospects for these regions include materials handling equipment, computers and peripherals, telecommunications, air conditioning, environmental services, agricultural products, construction, chemicals, mining equipment and food processing equipment and furniture, said Cleveland.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at email@example.com.