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Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke and U.S Trade Representative Ambassador Ron Kirk were warmly welcomed by the Memphis business community during their visit here this past week.
The Secretary and Ambassador started their trip with a late night visit to FedEx’s global hub to see firsthand the millions of packages that make Memphis the world’s busiest cargo airport and an important center for U.S. exports.
Early the next day, the group traveled to Memphis based Smith & Nephew, a high tech manufacturer of orthopedic equipment. Smith & Nephew export half of what they produce in Memphis and employ hundreds of people in the Memphis area to support those exports. This venue provided an excellent backdrop for the Secretary and Ambassador to address a town hall meeting of nearly 50 Memphis based exporting companies. The meeting focused on the President’s National Export Initiative and how the Department of Commerce, USTR and business can work together to achieve the President’s goal of doubling exports in five years. The business community was energized by the speech and many in the audience were able to ask questions about the NEI and how they could take advantage of the program. The Secretary highlighted that the U.S. Commercial Service has partnered with Memphis based FedEx through the New Market Exporter Initiative to identify SMEs that currently export to one market, and that by working together we would assist these companies to find additional markets overseas.
Following the town hall meeting, local Commerce Department staff, including myself, were approached by many of the attendees asking for assistance. The event was definitely a success and my calendar is booked for the next few weeks meeting with companies that want to expand their exports.
The Secretary and Ambassador concluded their time in Memphis at a roundtable discussion with Memphis based exporters that currently export to Asia. They discussed the Trans Pacific Partnership and what it means for Memphis. Many of the executives spoke positively about their interaction with the U.S. Commercial Service. For example, Chris Schnee of Christie Medical Holdings, noted that his company had not exported two years ago, now they are in 40 countries after conducting over 35 Gold Key matchmaking services with the Commercial Service. He attributed their export success directly to the assistance provided by the local Memphis office of the Commercial Service.
The Secretary and Ambassador left Memphis later that day but as we engage with more companies in the coming weeks to help them expand into additional markets, the legacy of their trip will live on.