Exporting from Minnesota: The Who, What, Where, and Why?


Last week, Mayo Clinic and the Destination Medical Center Economic Development Agency (DMC EDA) hosted an International Business Development Event in Bleu Duck Kitchen, connecting guests from the U.S. Commercial Service, Minnesota Trade Office (MTO), and Greater MSP to members of the Rochester entrepreneurial community. The goal: to communicate export resources offered by these local, state, and federal entities for international business and to share the “change and evolution” occurring in the Rochester entrepreneurial community at a larger level.

Sarah Walbert- Regional Trade Manager for life science industries and expert in Japanese and South Korean markets- represented MTO. MTO is a division of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), with a focus on international business. MTO assists Minnesota companies in exporting goods and services and helps to promote those exports. MTO employs five Regional Trade Managers to cover the entire globe and provide expert insight in their markets, including: Canada, Mexico, Latin America, the Caribbean, Japan, Korea, the European Union, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia.

MTO offers eight core resources to help Minnesota businesses export internationally including education, training, state export statistics, turnkey trade show participation, export counseling, trade mission management, chief of protocol, foreign direct investment attraction, and STEP grant funding.

The STEP grant is a federally funded program, covering trade show expenses up to $7,500. This grant helped fifty-four Minnesota companies attend trade shows in FY2016, amounting to $2.1M in overseas sales.

Export Development Manager Jennifer Erickson represented Greater MSP at the event. Greater MSP is a regional economic development partnership covering Minneapolis, Saint Paul, and the sixteen-county metro area. Although their focus is mainly in the Twin Cities, Greater MSP closely collaborates with regional partners, like Mayo Clinic.

Greater MSP’s primary mission is to attract workers to Minneapolis/Saint Paul to facilitate business growth and draw investment to that region. Talent attraction is a major push, currently, with their “Make It. MSP.” marketing initiative, showcasing the diversity of the region from a local point of view.

In 2011, Greater MSP launched their Exports Initiative to unify export resources and define and target efforts to internationally grow the MSP area.

Senior International Trade Specialist David Edmiston represented the final guest at the event, the U.S. Commercial Service, a federal agency helps U.S. businesses export their goods and services. They have locations in one hundred ten cities and seventy-five markets around the globe including: The United Arab Emirates, Canada, Germany, Japan, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia.

However, the real value is in their field-based resources. The U.S. Commercial Service serves as a direct point of contact for Minnesota companies to facilitate export needs.

They additionally provide trade counseling, market intelligence reports, export counseling, and due diligence to U.S. businesses. The U.S. Commercial Service also produces country specific commercial reports, documenting market conditions, regulations, and the business climate from all their global offices. They also offer in-depth, technology specific guides as references for U.S. exporters.

The U.S. Commercial Service’s expertise lies in their business matchmaking skills. They can provide an initial market check for a U.S. business to determine what a good market looks like; they also offer international partner search reports on prequalified business contacts. Additionally, the U.S. Commercial Service runs a “Gold Key Service,” where a U.S. business is escorted around a potential export destination by an international colleague to meet with prospective business collaborators in that location. These services are all offered at reasonable user fees.

The main takeaway from the event: there is no reason to limit business opportunities to the United States. Today, ninety-five percent of consumers and eighty percent of purchasing power is located outside of the United States (according to Greater MSP). These organizations- the Minnesota Trade Office, Greater MSP, and the U.S. Commercial Services- are here to assist, prepare, and educate Minnesota businesses to play a role in the international economy.