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Going global with Idaho exports: Expert tips for building a strategy   

When Hamilton Manufacturing Inc. of Twin Falls was looking to expand export sales, it turned to the U.S. Commercial Service office here in Boise for assistance. Hamilton makes 100% recycled, natural cellulose fibers that it manufactures into insulation and other products. Through export counseling, the company found new markets in Chile and elsewhere. 

Jay Park. Submitted photo

Hamilton is among the many Gem State businesses that are boosting their bottom line and competitiveness by selling internationally. Since 2003, Idaho exports have grown from $2.1 billion to $3.8 billion in 2021 — an 80% increase. In 2019, small and midsize enterprises (SMEs) accounted for 85% of Idaho exporters. Altogether, the state’s exports support thousands of jobs, contributing to economic growth and prosperity. 

With 95% of the worlds consumers and two-thirds of global purchasing power outside of the United States, Idaho exporters enjoy increased sales and profit potential. Exporting also helps businesses weather changes and smooth business cycles in the domestic and world economies. 

The first step is to develop an export strategy:    

  • Identify the product or service and check its export potential.   
  • Conduct market research on the countries of interest and evaluate an overseas distribution system. 
  • Have a pricing strategy for the product or service, payment terms and methods. 
  • Familiarize yourself with shipping methods, export compliance and other requirements.  
  • Come up with a strategy to find buyers.   

Many would-be exporters avoid exporting because they believe it’s too burdensome or that they are too small, or they may be unaware of export resources to help. However, there’s plenty of help available from the federal government and its partners.  

As you plan your export strategy, reach out to the U.S. Commercial Service office in Boise. The U.S. Commercial Service is the trade and investment promotion arm of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration. The Boise office is part of a global network of 100+ offices across the country and in more than 75 international markets. Assistance that can help a business export includes counseling, market intelligence, introduction to global buyers and more. 

Trade experts can help you avoid potential pitfalls and assist with your export strategy.   

For example, inexperienced exporters need to evaluate exchange rates and record-keeping requirements. In addition, SMEs often need guidance on how to protect their intellectual property in foreign markets and how to confront its theft. The office collaborates with STOPfakes.gov, a one-stop shop of intellectual property rights resources to assist U.S. businesses, particularly SMEs.  

A sound digital strategy is also crucial to establishing your brand in foreign markets. The eCommerce Innovation Lab offers resources on optimizing your website for eCommerce. Additionally, the website globalization service provides a search engine optimization (SEO) to help you enhance online lead generation and acquire more international consumers.  

If your company is located in a rural area, you may lack access to the types of resources and trade ecosystems accessible to firms in large metropolitan areas. To address this need, the U.S. Commercial Service’s Rural America’s Intelligence Service (RAISEhelps rural companies identify potential international markets and buyers in those markets. Once a research project is completed, the company works closely with trade specialists to implement the strategies and activities that emerge from the research. 

Rural outreach is part of our overall efforts in supporting SMEs in underserved communities, which also includes minority and women-owned businesses, among others.  

— Jay Park is a commercial officer with the U.S. Commercial Service in Boise. 

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