By Jeff Noble/Staff Writer
It’s a simple goal. Exporting more Kentucky products worldwide helps bring new jobs to our state. And in turn, that creates new, diversified markets for those products made in Kentucky.
Advocates of exporting say it’s a “win-win” situation, and the Kentucky Export Initiative brought that message home Thursday during a meeting, luncheon and networking session at the Corbin Center.
About 65-70 people came to the meeting sponsored by the Southern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and the Corbin Economic Development Agency.
It was designed to let business leaders and interested people know there is opportunity out there in the global marketplace, that the Tri-County can have a piece of that world export pie, and most important, there is a team of Kentucky people and organizations ready to help them do it.
To get them fired up, former Gov. Martha Layne Collins — who has been on several export missions worldwide for the state — gave the crowd a good pep talk.
“’Made in Kentucky’ is a pretty good thing. You all are special. You all are important. And there is a team who can help you. We’ve put several groups here and we work as a team. We have marketers. We have distributors. We have people who can help you with trade regs and tariffs,” said Collins, who is the ambassador at-large for the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.
Credited by many as the driving force in bringing the Toyota plant to Kentucky during her term as governor in the mid 1980s, Collins continued to hammer home the meeting’s main message.
“There’s other states that are competing with us. We in Kentucky can’t stand still. …The potential is unlimited. The only limit we have is the limits we place on ourselves. We want you to be successful. The world is getting smaller. The competition gets tougher and tougher. But I’ll tell you one thing. Kentucky likes to compete. So let’s go out and get ‘em,” she noted.
Sherry Mulkins of the World Trade Center Kentucky (WTC-KY) office in Louisville told how their international business organization helps Kentucky companies with their export operations. An affiliate of the World Trade Center’s Association of New York, WTC-KY is part of a global reach of over 300 centers in 92 countries. She said having strength in numbers is one big plus for southeastern Kentucky.
“What I love about the World Trade Center is helping businesses grow. And now we can help communities here in this region. We’ve got a great opportunity to grow and export your products,” Mulkins stated.
Ron Roy of Highlands Diversified Services in London gave the audience a “success story” on how the contract manufacturing company which serves the automotive, telecommunication and aerospace industry hit it big in exporting after they went on a trade mission to Canada with state officials.
“We produce all the digital antennas east of the Mississippi River for DirecTV. We went into Canada and were looking at expanding our markets. We didn’t have a product we can offer, but we have great services we can offer. We did with Bell (which offers satellite TV in Canada). Move ahead, work with the government agencies and you’ll go forward,” Roy pointed out.
“To see how exporting is doing so well is to go to your local companies who export and see how they do. …Corbin has Northern Contours, East Bernstadt has Robinson Stave. There are 12 exporters in the Tri-County area. It’s companies like these that drive that growth,” said Morgan Pierstorff with the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development’s Office of Entrepreneurship. “Last year, Kentucky ranked second in the nation in export growth. The top three markets for Kentucky export products are Canada, Mexico and the United Kingdom. … We’re here to show exporting is a business decision to make. If you think about it, there’s seven billion people in the world. There are resources out there to help you reach them.”
Pierstorff told the meeting the Kentucky Export Initiative has various programs to offer, which can be accessed at their website, www.kyexports.com.
Sara Moreno, a Barbourville native who was raised in Middlesboro, said she knew from an early age she wanted to travel and see the world. Moreno did, but she also wanted to come home to Kentucky and share what she learned from her travels.
She now works for the U.S. Commercial service, which helps American companies succeed in worldwide markets. Moreno explained how the company provides marketing intelligence, strategic planning, advocacy for winning U.S. government contracts in foreign countries and “business matchmaking,” which is research on potential trading partners.
Moreno also likes to tell success stories. And she did just that.
“One little company in Sharpsburg (located in Bath County) came to us and said they wanted to do business in Australia and that region. They made their very first export sale in New Zealand. A husband-and-wife team now with four employees. They realize the world is their marketplace,” she said.
World Trade Center Kentucky President and CEO J. Edwin Webb told the audience the time is right to get started exporting from southern Kentucky.
“We, along with your key partners, are your trade resources. We have three main tools to help grow your business. Education, resource consulting and finally, trade and business missions, to help you think outside the domestic box. Ninety percent of U.S. export growth is from small companies. Every person in this room is an exporting prospect. We have the horsepower here,” he said.
To help get small businesses in the region ready for exporting, Chamber and CEDA Executive Director Bruce Carpenter announced he and Ian Mooers of Eastern Kentucky University would hold a five-part exporting workshop series in Corbin beginning in September.
Mooers said the in-depth workshops would start off with “Why Export?” and would be followed by “Export 101,” to help understand the power of trade, “Developing an Export Marketing Plan,” then “Logistics,” and finally “Trade Certification.”
“We want people to leave that anxiety level and get more comfortable with exporting. The workshops will be key. It’s tremendous for Kentucky to step up and create jobs. It’s a tremendous opportunity,” said Mooers, who is the executive director for EKU’s Center for Economic Development, Entrepreneurship and Technology (CEDET), and the director for the university’s Center for Appalachian Regional Engagement and Stewardship (CARES).
The workshop will start in September and end in May with more information available in the weeks ahead.
Mooers added the workshop will also be held in Richmond, Hazard and Pikeville.
Carpenter closed the session announcing CEDA and the Chamber’s next goal was to make Whitley County a Certified Work Ready Community, a state plan to make communities meet certain work force development, educational and collaboration goals to earn “Work Ready Certification.”
“It’s a county-wide initiative, and we want to work with Knox and Laurel counties on this. The key is this. There are no county lines when companies come to Kentucky,” he said.
Officials from the agencies who spoke said they were delighted with the turnout, as well as the enthusiasm of those who came to the meeting.
“To have this support is amazing. For Bruce Carpenter to have the vision about exporting means a lot to our cause to educate people, and for this many people to show up means a lot,” WTC-KY’s Mulkins said afterwards.
Former Gov. Collins added, “What we’re doing here today is offering the help and information. You’ve got great opportunities here.”