By Stefanie Holland, Director, International Policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
As “Imports Work for America” week, we want to bring the story of how trade is a two-way street back home to your state. Last year, the Chamber and several other business groups commissioned a study entitled Imports Work for America, and its findings should hold interest for local communities.
First, many of the 16 million import-related jobs in the United States are concentrated in states along U.S. coasts or borders, which benefit from significant port trade and related warehousing and transportation services.
The 10 states accounting for the largest number of import-related jobs in 2011 were California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia. Thus, the benefits of imports touch a wide variety of local economies.
The freedom to import is important not just to large companies but to small, local firms as well. More than half the firms that import directly are small businesses employing fewer than 50 workers. Tens of thousands of small businesses import directly.
Take it from Nicole Snow, President of Darn Good Yarn in the town of Sebec in upstate Maine. Nicole imports clothing and accessories made from reclaimed materials, and her business has grown 1,500% in the past four years.
Or ask Jeff Wright, Executive Vice President and CFO of TRInternational, Inc. (TRI) headquartered in Seattle, Washington. TRI imports industrial chemicals with limited availability in the U.S. market, supporting 28 employees in the U.S., and several sales and purchasing employees throughout the world. “We opened our doors in 1994 and were primarily an export distributor,” he explains. “After the Asian financial crisis, we changed our strategy and began importing. At one point nearly 100% of our business was imports. Today imports support 60% of sales, and many of the jobs at TRI.”
Global value chains have also helped small businesses to become more engaged in trade by providing services to much larger suppliers to international markets.
In the end, imports are important because they show that trade is a two-way street — with benefits on both sides of Main Street America.