Across America, small and medium-sized exporters are growing, selling their products to international customers, gaining market share and creating jobs.
“The market outside of the U.S. is huge. Any company in the Midwest or the U.S. can reduce their risk by making their customer network as broad as possible,” says Tom Dustman, global sales director for manufacturer Sunen in St. Louis, Missouri. We can send it to the coastal port by train and then load it on the ship.”
As America celebrates World Trade Week, it’s worth asking local business leaders what they think about trade, and it quickly becomes clear: They all support a bold American trade agenda.
“I know a lot of people say, ‘Oh, you’re going to lose your job.’ You are going to lose companies. You lose this, you lose that.’ I don’t think so,” says Jonathan Zucks, president of Advanced Superabrasives Inc. in Mars Hill, North Carolina. “What makes American products and services unique is our innovation, our ingenuity, our ability to produce efficiently and effectively… So, I welcome competing with foreign competitors in Europe, Asia or South America.”
Szucs added that every day he sees neighboring small businesses selling kayaks, mountain bikes and outdoor gear in the mountains of western North Carolina.
While many assume that large businesses are the most involved in international trade, the opposite is actually true: small businesses represent 97 percent of all exporters and 33 percent of the value of exports ($413.3 billion). For example, Szucs estimates that 20% of his company’s annual revenue comes from international clients.
Bill Palmer, compliance officer at Rosenbauer America, which manufactures fire trucks and similar vehicles in South Dakota, Minnesota and Nebraska, is a proponent of seizing business opportunities.
In the year Without the U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement, which comes into effect in 2020, Palmer said his company faces a 6.5% tariff on every truckload it imports into Canada. Their vehicles range in value from $250,000 to $2 million, making it almost impossible to ship them to Canada at a tariff.
“That 6.5% puts us out of full competition with Canadian manufacturers,” Palmer said.
The USMCA has similar effects on other small and medium-sized exporters. Szucs said his company has exported more in one year (2021) since the USMCA passed than in the previous 15 years combined. Due to this success, his company opened new sales offices in Canada and Mexico to increase its foreign business.
“The USMCA lowered a lot of barriers….We’ve seen a 25% increase in revenue in Canada since the USMCA was implemented,” says Szucs.
Palmer says small exporters anywhere in the United States can benefit from exporting — and if they don’t want international customers — they’re missing out.
“It doesn’t matter where you are in the United States, especially with today’s technology. Having an export option is huge. no one In the US, Palmer says.
One of the things Szucs wishes policymakers in Washington knew more about is a properly funded and useful U.S. Department of Commerce.
“I want members of Congress to understand that the US Department of Commerce is an extension of our sales force,” Szucs said. “Without their business services team and international trade specialists, we would not be as large an exporter as we are.”
Dustman says that about 45% of his company’s total sales come from international customers and that his continued “Made in America” products are in demand worldwide.
“The reliability and quality of American-made products is generally in demand in the global marketplace,” says Dustman. “International trade — and free trade — are vital to the strength of the U.S. economy, the jobs of our people, and the benefit of the global marketplace.”
About the authors
Senior Writer and Editor, Strategic Communications, American Chamber of Commerce
Thaddeus is a senior writer and editor with the US Chamber of Commerce’s Strategic Communications Group.