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New Center-State strategy aims to boost exports

By Journal Staff


SYRACUSE — A new regional strategy developed by CenterState CEO in a partnership with the Brookings Institution aims to double the Syracuse metro area’s exports in the next five years.

The area’s exports already total $3.3 billion and while that may seem like a large number, it lags behind other regions, CenterState CEO President Robert Simpson says. Exports account for about 8.7 percent of the Syracuse area’s gross metro product. The national average is about 11 percent.

Local businesses simply can’t turn away international markets, even though many remain hesitant to make the leap into exporting, Simpson says.

“We’ve got to move that number,” he says.

CenterState announced the project with Brookings, a Washington, D.C.–based public policy think tank, in June. Syracuse is one of four pilot cities to participate in the organization’s Metropolitan Export Initiative.

The others are Los Angeles, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Portland, Ore.

CenterState announced the new plan and its three core strategies at its annual meeting April 4. The strategies include increasing export activity among the region’s top exporters, focusing on small and mid-size companies, and expanding service exports.

In practice, that means undertaking steps like streamlining export assistance to create one location for companies seeking help with international sales, Simpson says. CenterState also plans to develop profiles of some top international markets with data on growing industries and demand.

Simpson says many smaller firms feel they don’t have the resources to undertake international market research. The country profiles will help them get started.

And many of the region’s top exporters have agreed to take businesses new to international sales on trips overseas so they can learn.

“I think you ignore global markets at your peril,” says Amy Liu, senior fellow and co-director of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program. “There is huge wealth and a broad set of customers outside the U.S.”

Just 1 percent of all U.S. companies sell anything outside the country, Liu adds. Exporting, she says, isn’t in the DNA of American firms.

Businesses are naturally hesitant about working internationally given cultural and language roadblocks, Liu says. And for decades, U.S. companies enjoyed a thriving domestic market.

That’s not something they can rely on anymore, she notes. Companies can’t afford not to participate in the booming growth in nations like China, Brazil, and India.

Groups like CenterState CEO have close relationships with companies in local metro areas and can help connect them with services on the state and federal level, Liu adds. Making exporting a bigger part of the economic development conversation is a key step in boosting international sales everywhere.

Brookings estimates that every $1 billion in increased export sales creates 5,000 new jobs. The sales also contribute to 1 percent to 2 percent higher wages for workers.


Emerging Business Competition winner

Also at the CenterState annual meeting, the group announced MicroGen of Ithaca as the winner of the $200,000 grand prize in this year’s Creative Core Emerging Business Competition. The contest seeks to honor the region’s most innovative and growth-oriented company.

The firm’s technology harvests the energy created by vibrations for use in a variety of applications. The company is developing a line of micro-power sources to extend rechargeable battery lifetimes.

MicroGen had been a finalist in two previous years of the competition.

Past winners of the competition include Sound Reading Solutions, Widetronix, e2e Materials, and Mezmeriz, all based in Ithaca, and of Syracuse. 

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