Industries Ports/Trade

Virginia launches alliance to increase exports

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Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced Wednesday the creation of what he is calling the nation’s first public-private initiative to increase exports.

The Virginia International Trade Alliance (VITAL) is designed to grow Virginia exports by expanding the number of companies currently being served by the commonwealth’s trade programs, McAuliffe said Wednesday at the Omni Hotel in Richmond.

“It is a global marketplace,” McAuliffe told a group gathered for the VITAL launch and the graduation of companies in the Virginia Economic Development Partnership’s (VEDP) two-year VALET (Virginia Leaders in Export Trade Program). “Selling our goods to other countries around the globe is how you build a new Virginia economy.”

Diversifying the economy is especially important as the Virginia faces the effects of defense budget cuts and the impending sequestration cuts, McAuliffe said.

Over a five-year period, VITAL aims to grow Virginia exports by $1.6 billion, create 14,000 trade-supported jobs and increase the number of companies being served by VEDP’s international trade programs each year to 390.

The program will expand Virginia’s existing trade-assistance programs that include targeted market research, face-to-face meetings with foreign businesses and the VALET program, according to Paul Grossman, vice president of international trade for VEDP.

Private partners and public universities in the initiative will help identify companies that can start or expand international trade projects. The partnership includes: the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, Virginia Manufacturers Association, Northern Virginia Technology Council, Virginia Maritime Association and nine of the commonwealth’s public universities.

“If we’re going to ramp up our programs without adding staff, we need the help of private partners,” says Grossman.

The initiative is being funded by $1 million being diverted from other economic development funds in the state budget under flexibility given to the administration during the last session of the Virginia General Assembly. No new staff will be added under the program.

“This is going to be one of several pieces of our goal to help our companies meet our consumers abroad,” Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones said after the event. “This is in our economic interest. If we’re going to grow and help businesses create more jobs, we need to help them sell overseas.”

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