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Connecting America’s Rural Communities to Global Trade

September 9, 2021

Heather Ranck leads the U.S. Commercial Service’s Rural Export Center

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An image of a tractor in a field

Rural areas are known for open sky, forests, fields, and small towns. While thought of as being distant from foreign affairs, rural America is an export powerhouse of food, energy and a vast array of innovative products.

On September 1, an important discussion was held at Swanson Health Products in Fargo, North Dakota, a leading vitamin and mineral producer with a strong national and global footprint. Swanson hosted a Rural Roundtable with U.S. Senators John Hoeven (North Dakota) and Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota), during which five other rural businesses highlighted the value of in-depth customized market research.

This is where the International Trade Administration (ITA) and its export promotion arm, the U.S. Commercial Service, are helping. While rural American companies are located great distances from urban information centers and gateways, they now have access to the Rural Export Center, a new U.S. Commercial Service program established in May 2020 that allows rural American exporters to tap into data analytics and an extensive network of trade professionals.

The Rural Export Center’s signature service is RAISE – Rural America’s Intelligence Service for Exporters. The RAISE program is geared toward companies that seek to speed up their market selection and reduce the risk of poor decision-making on market selection, partner identification and entry strategies. The service leverages powerful databases, proven processes and the Commercial Service’s unparalleled global expertise. RAISE provides rural American exporters with customized market intelligence that will rank the opportunities in foreign markets, identify potential partners and provide actionable recommendations to help the exporters enter new markets faster and more cost effectively.

An image of Senator Hoeven (left), Heather Ranck (center), and Senator Klobuchar (right) seated. Senator Klobuchar is holding a microphone.
Rural Export Center Director Heather Ranck (center) moderates the discussion with Senator Hoeven (left) and Senator Klobuchar (right)

Swanson’s own example illustrates how the program works. As said by their CFO Jim Hamel, “Having knowledge is better than nodding and trusting. The research [provided by RAISE] was helpful to optimize relationships with our partners. Getting a comprehensive contact list was invaluable; and being able to share that with our new distributor allows us to hit the ground running.”

Another Roundtable participant, Mike Wagner, CEO of Sea Foam International (a manufacturer of fuel additives), shared his experience of using RAISE research. “Quality data is hard to obtain and very expensive. It is extremely time-consuming just figuring out what data sources exist, much less subscribing to them for the time needed to analyze a market. The RAISE program takes this process over and makes a tedious process quick and easy. I cannot over-emphasize the value of information-from local knowledge, data, resources and contacts, to name a few provided by the US Commercial Service.”

The two Senators also elaborated on the importance of rural exports in their states and the work of the Rural Export Center:

  • Senator Hoeven: “Exports are a vital part of North Dakota’s economy, with our state exporting $7 billion worth of goods in 2019, supporting an estimated 28,000 jobs. This comes as a result of our long-term efforts, both through the North Dakota Trade Office and now the Rural Export Center, to create opportunities for trade across industries, including agriculture, energy and manufacturing. With the Rural Export Center now in its second year of operation, today’s discussion is all about reviewing the impact of their good work and future opportunities to grow and diversify businesses throughout rural America.”
  • Senator Klobuchar: Today we heard from people doing businesses across Minnesota and North Dakota how important exporting is to their success. I worked with Senator Hoeven to create the Rural Exports Center to give our rural businesses the assistance they need to break into international export markets and compete in the 21st Century economy. In its first year, over 1,800 businesses have benefitted.”

Rural companies can learn more about the Rural Export Center and can submit requests for a free research consultation at https://www.trade.gov/rural-export-center.