Increasing International Exports is Key to State's Economic Development Plan

A recent update on Connecticut’s Economic Development Strategy includes a strong focus on international economic development, including upcoming efforts to extend business in Israel, Canada and France as part of broader plans to strengthen Connecticut’s brand in the global markets and grow the state’s trade footprint abroad.

As described by Beatriz Gutierrez, director of international business development efforts at the state Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD), the department’s vision is “to position Connecticut as the destination of choice for companies looking to establish North American presence with preference to those in the areas of bioscience, precision manufacturing, fuel cells and renewable, and those looking to establish North American headquarters.”

The primary geographic targets for the state are China (which Gov. Malloy visited last year and Secretary of the State Denise Merrill visited last month), Germany and Western Europe (including the Paris Air Show this month), Israel (a CT-Israel Tech Summit will be held in Connecticut on June 12), and Brazil.  Goals include developing an international brand for the state, building an “opportunity pipeline,” and strengthening the relationship management process.

Meetings have been held with more than 50 companies and cluster associations in key industry segments, and a “concierge” program has been introduced in Europe.  During fiscal year 2012, DECD assisted in business exports to 39 countries for 62 state coCT boothmpanies, according to the DECD update.  The total assisted value of $548.6 million would equate to 2,785 jobs, according to DECD.  The department’s presentation added that unreported dollar amounts could account for “another 300 to 400 jobs, or more.”

The state has also been working closely with the U.S. Small Business Administration on international business growth, including the State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) program.  Among the initiatives in Connecticut are a SBA pilot-grant to help small businesses increase exports, and efforts to assist businesses with participation in regional and industry focused export opportunities and international business development opportunities. Connecticut received grant awards of $546,822 in the first year and $339,319 in the second year, supporting 178 Connecticut companies with partial reimbursements for international business initiatives.

At a trade show in Hannover, Germany in April, for example, the state’s booth featured five Connecticut hydrogen and fuel cell companies, which officials say produced strong leads from both Germany and Canada. Later this month, Connecticut will have a presence at the Hydrogen + Fuel Cells Conference in Vancouver, with three state companies on hand, and at the Paris Air Show in Le Bourget, with 13 companies slated to be present at Connecticut’s booth.  It is the state’s eighth consecutive year at the air show, and $162 million in new business has been reported by the companies who exhibit under the Connecticut display umbrella.

Earlier this year, DECD reported that Connecticut is home to “691 foreign affiliates” employing 106,500 in the state.  At the time, exports were said to exceed $16 billion annually. More recent data indicate that exports dropped about two percent between FY 2011 and FY2012, from $16.21 billion to $15.86 billion.  Next steps outlined by the state in the May 22, 2013 update include implementing a statewide international activity scorecard, monitoring global trends and identifying potential “sweet spots,” and strengthening strategic partnerships.

Consulates in Connecticut Promote International Connections

Connecticut is home to numerous international corporations and many more domestic companies that routinely conduct global business, but the number of official consulates in the state can be counted with just a few fingers. The Consulate General of Brazil is located at Constitution Plaza in Hartford, quite visibly on the corner Consulateof Market and State Streets just a block from the University of Connecticut School of Business downtown.   The Consulate General of Peru is also located in Connecticut’s Capitol City, on Main Street.

New Haven hosts the Consulate General of Ecuador, on the corner of Church Street and George Street in the heart of the city.  Just last year, Ecuadorian ambassador Nathalie Cely Suarez visited New Haven City Hall to meet with Mayor John DeStefano Jr. and New Haven’s Ecuadorian consul, Raul Erazo Velarde. New Haven is home to one of 19 Ecuadorian consulates in the United States, and the most recent U.S. census found that 21,000 Ecuadorians live in the state.

The state also has numerous honorary consulates – often no more than an individual and a mailing address – representing nations including Finland (in Norwich), France (in Middlebury), Romania (in Fairfield) and Italy (in Hartford).

The political title "Consul" is used for the official representatives of the government of one nation in the territory of another, normally acting to assist citizens of the consul's country, and to facilitate trade and friendship between the peoples of the two countries.  There may be several consuls,  in several main cities, providing assistance with bureaucratic issues to both the citizens of the consul's country travelling or living abroad and to the citizens of the country the consul resides in who wish to travel to or trade with the consul's country.  A consul is distinguished from ambassador, who is the official representative from one head of state to another.