By John Reid Blackwell, Richmond-Times Dispatch
After nearly two years of research, two Richmond-area economic development groups said Thursday they are implementing a plan this fall to help small and medium-sized businesses in the region export their products and services to international markets.
The plan, to be managed by the Greater Richmond Partnership and Virginia’s Gateway Region, includes starting a new website that will provide information to local businesses about exporting.
With $150,000 in funding from the banking and financial services company JPMorgan Chase, and an additional $150,000 in state funding from the Virginia International Trade Alliance, the program plans to provide grants to Richmond businesses that need support getting established in export markets.
The exports initiative grew from a realization that international markets represent an untapped opportunity for many Richmond-area companies, said Greg Wingfield, one of the organizers of the initiative and a fellow at the Center for Public Policy at Virginia Commonwealth University’s L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs.
About 81 percent of global economic growth in the next four years is expected to occur outside the United States. The exports initiative has an “aggressive” goal to increase exports by small and medium-size enterprises in the Richmond region by 40 percent by 2020, Wingfield said.
“We wanted to look for additional ways for existing business to grow,” said Wingfield, the former president and chief executive of the Greater Richmond Partnership. He spoke during an event Thursday at Sunday Park at The Boathouse in Chesterfield County to announce the specifics of the initiative to local and state economic development officials.
Research for the strategic plan was conducted by the Center for Urban and Regional Analysis at Virginia Commonwealth University and the two local economic development groups.
More than 200 local businesses were surveyed. Others participated in interviews and focus groups to help determine what kind of resources are needed for businesses in the region to export their products and services.
The survey found that 83 percent of businesses are not exporting their products and services, but about half said they would consider exporting if they could identify the right markets and obtain financing.
A date for when the website will go live has not been set.