Exports Spur Job Growth for Local Companies
Pending trade agreements could assist Lake Bluff company, but with some concerns.
Job creation can come in a variety of forms, and more than 60 representatives of the local business community learned how developing the contacts and expertise to export products outside the United States can help.
Area manufacturers heard from experts from the U.S. Department of Commerce and each other at a roundtable hosted by Rep. Robert Dold (R-Kenilworth) Monday at the Lake Forest Graduate School of Management.
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Companies as diverse as Fannie May Candies of Lake Forest, soil erosion specialists Profile of Buffalo Grove and scientific measurement manufacturer Buehler of Lake Bluff came away with new tools. Some are heavily into export while others do little.
“Ninety-five percent of all consumers live outside the United States today,” Dold said. “Eighty percent of companies that export are small business. For every $1 billion we export, we create 6,250 jobs.”
In the last two years, Profile has doubled its exports from nine percent of its business to 16 percent and hired an additional seven people in the process.
“You know the green stuff you see that looks like it’s sprayed on along the tollway, that’s ours,” said Walter Butman, vice president of Distribution and International Sales. “We also make products for golf (courses) and sports fields.”
When the business downturn hit the U.S. in 2008, Profile found additional markets overseas.
“Internationally, golf is booming,” Butman said, comparing it to a flat market in this country.
With export growth projected to exceed domestic productivity, Profile hopes to add another 12 employees in the next two years.
Dold and Michael Choi of the U.S. Department of Commerce told the group about the potential advantages of pending free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. Dold believes passage of these agreements and the resulting elimination of barriers will spur job growth.
According to Dold, the agreement with South Korea alone will be worth $50 billion in additional business to American companies. Based on his calculations, the agreement could add 312,500 jobs to the American economy. Profile and Buehler already conduct business in some or all of those countries.
Buehler sells more than half its products to foreign buyers, according to Sari Hurtig, senior international trade compliance specialist. She likes the reduced barriers, but has concerns.
Part of Hurtig’s responsibility is making sure all Buehler exports comply with local laws. She wants to make sure the free trade agreements do more than reduce tariffs. She hopes the agreements will help her company.
“I would like to think so,” Hurtig said. “It’s great to put it in place, but we have to make sure we have full compliance. There are big fines if you don’t follow the letter of the law.”
The wording of the agreement can be critical to how helpful it is to local business, Hurtig said.
Fannie May and The Popcorn Factory conduct little business outside the U.S. other than Canada, according to Account Manager Tracy Steggall. The companies do plan to hire for the coming holiday season.
“We should hire 40 to 50 people for the holidays,” Steggall said. “Some may stay on afterwards.”