MADISON, WI-The Wisconsin Department of Commerce and the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership (WMEP) have created a joint venture to ramp up the number of state manufacturers that export their goods and services.

“There are tremendous opportunities in international trade for Wisconsin manufacturers,” says Commerce Secretary Richard J. Leinenkugel. “By working with WMEP, an organization with a proven track record of helping manufacturers compete and win, we can reach more state manufacturers who may not know of the great potential that exporting holds.”

Under the plan, WMEP and the Department of Commerce will combine their resources and expertise to help small and midsize manufacturers assess and develop their export potential. The initiative will accelerate the delivery of Department of Commerce export services to WMEP’s large network of client firms and other manufacturers across Wisconsin. The effort will target manufacturers with outreach that includes personal contacts to manufacturers, public workshops and other communications aimed at building awareness, knowledge and capabilities.

“Demand for manufactured goods is rising more sharply around the world than within the U.S., creating new opportunities for Wisconsin manufacturers to tap international markets,” says Michael Klonsinski, WMEP’s executive director. “The success of our manufacturing economy depends on our ability to adapt to a global marketplace.”

Exports not only fuel top and bottom-line growth in times of rising global demand, but also drive revenues during periods of weak economic activity in the U.S. Many state manufacturers who sell into global markets weathered the recession better than those that depend entirely on domestic demand, Klonsinski notes.

Though Wisconsin exports have been on a steady upward climb in recent years, many manufacturers remain on the sidelines, according to a 2008 study. The Wisconsin Next Generation Manufacturing Study revealed that more than half-60%-of more than 500 manufacturers surveyed said they were making “little or no progress” toward becoming a world-class global player. Only 4% of state respondents ranked themselves world class.

Wisconsin exports increased by 9.2% to $20.6 billion in 2008, making Wisconsin the 18th-largest exporting state, according to the Department of Commerce. Export-supported jobs linked to manufacturing account for an estimated 6.8% of Wisconsin’s private-sector employment, according to the Office of Trade and Industry Information in the U.S. Department of Commerce. More than one-sixth (18.4%) of all manufacturing workers in Wisconsin depend on exports for their jobs, according to the latest data (2006).

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