U.S. Mayor Articles

WTO Summit Offers Local Communities International Trade Opportunty

By Administrator Aida Alvarez, U.S. Small Business Administration

Exports equal economic growth. The future economic prosperity of cities and counties, small and large, rural and urban, will depend increasingly on their participation in the global marketplace.

At the recent Mayors and Business Leaders summit in Denver I spoke about my desire to develop a vigorous and sustainable partnership between the Small Business Administration and this nation's local elected officials. It is my intention to forge a partnership, which outlives my tenure as Administrator, and transcends partisanship.

The upcoming WTO Summit offers an excellent opportunity to continue this effort. The economic importance of international trade in local communities involving small businesses continues to grow rapidly. Let me share some important facts with you.

Exports accounted for more than 30 percent of the growth in the U.S. economy since 1989. Small businesses are responsible for a third of that -- and their impact is growing. In the last ten years, the number of small firms that export has tripled. The dollar value of their exports grew by 300 percent. And the most dynamic growth was in the smallest firms that employ fewer than 20 people.

Unlike larger companies, small businesses are far more likely to remain productive members of local communities and rarely move their businesses overseas. Small businesses are anchors to local communities, both in terms of economic output and jobs. They understand the importance of a healthy environment and adhere to local and national regulations.

American workers producing for export earn 15 percent more than the overall average wage and have 11 percent higher benefits. Further, firms which export experience 20 percent greater employment growth and are 9 percent less likely to go out of business than non-exporting firms.

If nothing else, these numbers demonstrate that globalized trade, small businesses, and economic development go hand in hand.

Globalization, which has made it possible for small businesses in large numbers to enter the world trading community, is a relatively recent phenomenon. As we mark the 10th anniversary of the Berlin Wall coming down, we see how the fall of communism has changed the global marketplace. It created more market driven economies. The technology and communications revolution has removed geographic barriers for small businesses. As I travel across America and in other countries, I realize that small businesses around the world have more that brings them together than divides them.

There can be little doubt that small business and local communities are inextricably intertwined and provide the necessary ingredients for continuing economic growth. The economic prosperity that we as a nation have enjoyed for much of the past decade provides opportunity to many communities and their citizens. Our job, as public servants, is to increase the opportunities so that all communities and all citizens share in this prosperity. By actively promoting export opportunities for small businesses in our communities, we can at least increase the chances that the great economic surge, which is currently sweeping across the nation, will reach more and more communities. Exports opportunities provide just one more weapon in our economic arsenal which should be employed to bolster job creation and economic development.

Export promotion translates into living wages and livable communities. And that is why local communities have a vested interest in what happens in Seattle later this month.

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