Exports provide a means for U.S. businesses to reach new markets and customers. In addition, they provide goods and services that benefit consumers throughout the world, 95% of whom live outside the U.S. However, expanding into new countries with products or services may pose unique challenges for businesses. District Export Councils (DECs) were created by the U.S. Department of Commerce as a means to promote exports by helping local businesses deal with these challenges. They are organizations made up of business leaders from local communities who are appointed by various U.S. Secretaries of Commerce. Their knowledge of and expertise in international business provides a source of professional advice to businesses in their regions. They represent exporters, financial services companies, and educational institutions. Currently, there are approximately 1,500 DEC members who volunteer their time and specialized expertise to assist small and medium-sized businesses in their local communities establish or increase export sales, thereby promoting economic growth and creating new and higher-paying jobs for their communities. DEC members also sponsor and participate in numerous trade promotion activities, as well as advocate for effective trade policies.
There are 59 DECs throughout the U.S representing individual states and trading regions. The DECs play a major role in the planning and coordination of export activities for their communities. As leading organizations that serve the international business community, the councils have the capacity to facilitate the development of an effective export assistance network and can provide aid in coordinating the activities of trade partners to leverage available resources. DECs also serve as a communications link between the business community and the U.S. & Foreign Commercial Service, and support the export expansion activities of the U.S. Commerce Department in a variety of ways within their communities.
DECs in Utah and Idaho
Utah and Idaho both have active DECs that represent the states’ export interests. The councils meet regularly to discuss the opportunities and challenges for local businesses involved in exporting to the constantly expanding world market. They play a major role in planning and coordinating activities such as workshops, training and educational seminars, promotional events, and statewide conferences. The DECs have three primary missions that are focused on outreach and education, legislative affairs, and trade policy. They work to promote trade policies that result in increased exports, to identify legislative and regulatory policies that can present obstacles to exporting, and to determine ways to enhance the competitive position of the U.S. in the world marketplace. In particular, the DECs support and advocate for key trade legislation that supports small to medium-sized exporters, which constitute 97 percent of all exporters and provide one-fifth of total manufacturing exports. In particular, the councils have been at the forefront of the cause for increased free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and Korea.
DECs work closely with U.S. Commerce Department’s Export Assistance Centers (USEACs) and the U.S. Commercial Service (USCS). The Executive Secretaries of the Utah and Idaho DECs are David Fiscus, USCS officer of Utah, and Amy Benson, USCS officer of Idaho, who nominate business and industry leaders from their respective regions to serve on the DECs for a fixed term. Zions Bank has been an active member of both DECs. Mark Garfield, manager of Zions International Banking department, chairs the Utah DEC. Gary DeGrange and Lee Gibbs of Zions Bank are members of the Idaho DEC. A key objective of the Utah DEC is to meet with the state’s congressional delegation and inform them about the challenges and opportunities that face exporters in Utah. In fact, the next scheduled meeting will have Utah’s Senator Mike Lee as a guest.
The USCS is the trade promotion arm of the U.S Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration. Its members are professionals from more than 100 U.S cities and 75 countries around the world. It provides trade counseling, market intelligence, and international connections for businesses in the Intermountain West. Utah and Idaho are fortunate to have representatives of the USCS headquartered in Salt Lake City and Boise. As a consequence, the two states’ DECs maintain a strong and active relationship with the USCS through which they participate in advocacy and trade promotion programs that also include trade missions. This collaboration is vital in helping businesses export their products and services throughout the world.
Zions Bank’s participation in the Utah and Idaho DECs and the USCS provides local businesses with an effective way to get started in exporting their products and services or in increasing foreign sales. Representatives in these organizations can provide both expertise and assistance in identifying the most productive ways for local businesses to participate in the world market.