Kentucky-made products are in high demand. The state is currently seeing a surge in exports from the Commonwealth; in 2013, more than $12 billion in products and services had been exported by August, making it possible for the Commonwealth to surpass 2012’s record-breaking total of $22 billion.
This surge is largely due to the Kentucky Export Initiative (KEI), a program launched by Gov. Steve Beshear in 2010. As a member of KEI, the Kentucky Chamber is helping further the initiative’s goal of increasing Kentucky exports, which will lead to new jobs and create diversified markets for Kentucky-made products.
“This is an exciting time for Kentucky exporting,” said Chamber President and CEO Dave Adkission. “With products and services of Kentucky companies – many of which are Chamber members – going to nearly 200 countries, the Commonwealth is making a huge global impact right now, and it’s only getting bigger.”
The Chamber has become much more involved with international trade in the past three years, co-sponsoring Beshear’s trade mission to Canada earlier this year, hosting trips to China and Dubai, forging a strategic partnership with the World Trade Center of Kentucky, engaging former Gov. Martha Layne Collins as the Chamber’s Ambassador-at-Large for International Trade and participating with local chambers to sponsor more than a dozen export seminars around the Commonwealth in 2013.
The Chamber’s mission to Dubai in mid-November marked the third time the organization offered a mission abroad to explore exporting and other business opportunities in a foreign country. Chamber Chairwoman Elizabeth McCoy (Planters Bank), along with Chair-elect Wil James (Toyota), Adkisson and a group of about 30 others joined Gov. Beshear and First Lady Jane Beshear on the seven-day tour of Dubai, one of the seven emirates of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
“We have wonderful connections to the leaders of Dubai,” said McCoy. “The UAE purchases more than $140 million of Kentucky products each year. From 2009 to 2011, Kentucky exports to the UAE included $85 million of automobiles, $59 million of horses, $42 million of aircraft parts and $27 million of filters. Other exports include two very successful restaurants opened in Dubai by Louisville-based Texas Roadhouse and purchases of luxury houseboats manufactured in Somerset.”
In 2010 and 2011, the Chamber also hosted trips to China, when delegates visited cities such as Bejing, Shanghai, Suzhou and Hangzhou. During both trips, the delegates had opportunities to meet with business executives from Kentucky companies working in China such as Alltech, UPS and the B&L Group.
In June of this year, nearly two dozen Kentucky companies and several trade partners joined Gov. Beshear on an international business trade mission to Canada. Adkisson joined the delegation which visited Montreal and Toronto.
“This trade mission was an outstanding opportunity for Kentucky businesses – even those that have never exported – to connect with potential partners in Canada and explore possibilities for selling our products to our neighbors across the border,” said Adkisson. “There is a reason Canada is Kentucky’s number one trading partner.”
Kentucky World Trade Center
In 2011, the Kentucky Chamber partnered with the World Trade Center of Kentucky (WTC-KY) to strengthen its mission and services for Kentucky companies doing business worldwide. Each year, the WTC-KY responds to more than 500 service requests and organizes international trade education programs covering topics ranging from international sales contracts to market entry strategies. In addition, the World Trade Center partnership provides comprehensive trade missions that have allowed Kentucky businesses to explore a market through site visits, business matchmaking and introductions to government officials.
Gov. Collins spreads the word about trade
Since 2011, Former Gov. Collins has served as a consultant to the Kentucky Chamber on issues dealing with international trade. Collins, who was the driving force in bringing the Toyota plant to Georgetown during her administration in 1986, has been working to promote the expansion of world trade by Kentucky companies, farmers and craftsmen.
“During her time consulting with the Chamber, Gov. Collins has focused on the expansion of exporting to international markets and on promoting Kentucky products to domestic markets,” said Adkisson. “She’s really functioned as our spokeswoman for international trade, and has spread this message through numerous speaking engagements across the state.”