Laurel Delaney: Small firms can no longer afford to ignore globalization

Wed, 04-06-2011
By: Laurel Delaney

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From my debut column on Crain’s small-business blog, you got an idea of why the Internet is a global entrepreneur’s best friend, how it offers many options and such convenience for customers worldwide, and why we no longer have the choice to ignore globalization. This column provides related information about three topics:

1. Illinois exports – dollar volume and state ranking (2009)

2. The top 10 countries for Illinois exports

3. The worldwide Internet population

First, a word about Illinois exports. According to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO):

Exporting means big business in Illinois. Illinois exports totaled more than $41.5 billion in 2009, maintaining its rank as the sixth largest exporting state in the United States and No. 1 in the Midwest. Direct exports accounted for 8.2% of the GSP in 2009. Illinois has realized significant benefits from NAFTA-related trade, with Canada and Mexico as Illinois’ first and second largest export markets, respectively, which import approximately 37% of Illinois’ total exports. Approximately 539,000 Illinois jobs are supported by exports.

As the sixth largest exporting state in the United States, you might be curious about exactly how much of the exports are a result of Caterpillar and Archer Daniels Midland, for example. If you consider the top industries for Illinois exports— machinery, computers, electronic products and equipment, chemicals, transportation equipment and agricultural products — it isn’t all big manufacturing companies in Illinois that carry the highest percentage of these exports (source:  Illinois Office of Trade and Investment). I'll discuss some specific stats a little later.

In the meantime, let’s move on to our second topic and take a look at the top 10 countries where Illinois exports end up.

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In case you're wondering, Singapore, which is considered the entrepreneurial capital of the world, made it as No. 11 on the list.

My interest in this information lies in determining what percentage of the Illinois export pie is contributed by small businesses and entrepreneurs. As I dug around a little further online, I revisited the U.S. Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration, which provides the following state report statistics about Illinois companies that export.

A total of 16,902 companies exported goods from Illinois locations in 2008. Of those, 15,170 (90%) were small and medium-sized enterprises, with fewer than 500 employees.

Small and medium-sized firms generated over one-fifth (22%) of Illinois' total exports of merchandise in 2008.

So how you can be a part of further strengthening our state’s resiliency and, more important, your business, by way of exporting?

If you’re reading this article, you have a connection to the Internet. Here’s a glimpse of who’s using the Internet, just like you, who can become a potential customer on a product or service export.

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Source:  World Internet Usage Statistics News and World Population Stats

If you conduct business valuation training workshops or develop smart phone apps and sensational global marketing campaigns, you could be offering that service to nearly 2 billion people online. You don't know whether they want it or not, but it’s worth a try.  Capturing even one-half of one percent of that pie is still pretty good.  It catapults you from a local to a very global company in no time at all.

So you don’t have to sell trucks, tractors or grains to be a part of Illinois exports.  You need a good idea, the Internet, perseverance (which we small-business owners have an overabundance of) and a global plan to make it happen.  Stay tuned to my global small business channel on Wednesdays here on Crain’s small-business blog for the next steps on how to get started.