Since the days more than a century ago when George Eastman, Kate Gleason and others traveled across the Atlantic Ocean to hunt for opportunities to expand their Rochester-based companies, international business has played a big role in the local economy. If anything, its importance is growing-both here and elsewhere around the country.
In 2011, U.S. exporters sold more than $2 trillion in goods and services abroad-a record amount. And according to U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis data, exports' share of U.S. gross domestic product was nearly 14 percent, the highest level in data spanning some 80 years.
A recent Brookings Institution study shows that exports have grown rapidly in the last few years, helping to boost the fragile recovery from the Great Recession. In fact, the number of U.S. export-supported jobs grew by nearly 6 percent in 2010, although the economy as a whole was still losing jobs. The manufacturing sector in particular experienced strong export growth.
Brookings researchers say metro Rochester ranks 33rd among the top 100 U.S. markets, based on the value of products and services exported. In 2010, exports grew 9 percent from the year before and accounted for 13.6 percent of this region's GDP.
In his 2010 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama unveiled the National Export Initiative and set an ambitious goal: double U.S. exports by the end of 2014. As important as the export goal, however, is the focus placed on thinking globally when pursuing business opportunities.
That's also the idea behind iBiz, a new monthly feature in our newspaper. Launched in January, iBiz is designed to explore the role of international business locally in all its aspects. Did you know that the Port of Rochester handles roughly 300 freight entries a week? Turn to this month's iBiz (on page 13) to read the Go Trade column by Laurie Ritter DeRoller, executive director of the International Business Council. She also is a member of the Upstate New York District Export Council and SBA International Task Force, and will be a regular iBiz contributor. Laurie and the IBC have been involved in iBiz from the early discussions.
The other key contributor to this monthly feature is RBJ Associate Editor Smriti Jacob, who edits the page and writes the Beyond Borders column. A native of India, Smriti reflected in her first piece on a return trip to her homeland and the increasing competition U.S. firms face there from the Europeans and others. This month, she writes about Solomon Kebede, who came to this country from Ethiopia and created a business, the Natural Oasis cafe and health store on Monroe Avenue. Her columns illustrate the diversity of international business; while selling U.S. products abroad occupies the central place, the scope of what it means to move "beyond borders" is broad-exports, imports, cross-cultural issues and more.
In some respects, the global nature of business these days is obvious, but it also can be easy to overlook. Take the RBJ. Yes, we are a regional business publication; geography shapes what we write about and who reads the paper. But borders do not limit our readership. News published on our website is viewed by people in Canada, the United Kingdom, India, Germany, the Netherlands, China, Singapore-the list goes on.
We hope iBiz helps to broaden your awareness of international business in all its facets. If you have suggestions for future articles, don't hesitate to contact Smriti at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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