By John Reid Blackwell, Richmond Times-Dispatch
Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s administration announced a new initiative Wednesday aimed at increasing the number of companies in Virginia that sell products or services in international markets.
The new program, the Virginia International Trade Alliance, or VITAL, will be managed by the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, a state agency that already oversees various programs to assist companies and develop global markets for Virginia companies.
The new initiative will include private trade organizations and public universities that will work with the VEDP to identify and recruit more businesses into international trade programs.
“International trade is something I think about every day,” McAuliffe said Wednesday at an event in Richmond. “It is a global marketplace. Selling our goods to other countries around the globe is how you build what I call a new Virginia economy.”
State officials said the goal is to double the number of businesses that the VEDP provides with international trade assistance to 390 per year.
Officials said they want the VITAL program alone to add about $1.6 billion to Virginia’s exports in five years while supporting the creation of 14,000 trade-supported jobs.
Virginia exported about $36 billion worth of goods and services in 2014.
The four industry organizations involved in the initiative are the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, the Virginia Manufacturers Association, the Northern Virginia Technology Council and the Virginia Maritime Association.
Nine universities are involved, including Virginia Commonwealth University.
“They are going to be multipliers for our trade programs,” said Paul Grossman, vice president for international trade for the VEDP. “What is unique about this is the partnership with trade associations and universities.”
The initiative does not involve hiring any new staff members at the VEDP.
Under authority given by the General Assembly in 2014, the McAuliffe administration is funding the international trade initiative by reallocating $1 million within the existing budget for the state’s economic development programs, said Maurice Jones, Virginia’s secretary of commerce and trade.
“No new monies were either asked for or appropriated for this,” Jones said.
“A strategic sector for us to grow is international trade,” he said. “Eighty-plus percent of the consumers in the world are outside of the United States. To help our businesses grow, we have to find markets outside the U.S.”