Global Connections: A snapshot of international business in Utah

Derek-MillerLast month I traveled to the World Trade Center Association annual meeting held in Algiers, Algeria. As I was sitting in the airport waiting to board my flight, something out of the window caught my eye. It was a powerful Boeing 787 Dreamliner leaving the runway, headed for yet another national or international destination.

Having recently toured the Boeing facility in Salt Lake City, I reflected on what General Manager Larry Coughlin said about Boeing’s airplanes during the visit: “Every Boeing airplane has a piece of Utah in it.”

The tail for the 787 Dreamliner and the structure that supports the dashboard for all of Boeing’s airplanes are produced at facilities in West Jordan and Salt Lake. Airplane parts are just one example of the many interesting products exported from Utah that may surprise people. Utah’s exports range from dairy products made at Schreiber Foods’ facility in Logan that are eaten in well-known restaurants around the world to courts produced by Connor Sport Court of Salt Lake City that will be used in the Brazil Olympic Games.

Utah has received many accolades recognizing it for its economic success, and part of this success can be attributed to the focus that has been placed on expanding companies internationally.

Exports matter

Exports are an important part of Utah’s economy, and the good news is they are growing. In 2015, Utah exported $13.3 billion worth of goods, an 8 percent increase from the previous year. While primary metals make up a large portion of Utah’s exports, the state has been working to diversify and grow exports in other areas as well. Some of Utah’s top export products include computer and electronic products, chemicals, food and kindred products, and transportation equipment.

The private and public sector put international business as a top state priority a decade ago with the creation of World Trade Center Utah—and it has paid off. Utah is one of the few states in the nation with a trade surplus of $4 billion, and it ranks ninth for export growth in the United States. This is an impressive feat for a small, landlocked state.

So what does this all mean for Utah? According to a policy brief produced by the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah, the state’s 2014 international goods exports generated $4.1 billion in earnings, supported more than 95,000 jobs and contributed almost $7.6 billion to the state’s gross domestic product. These impacts represented 4.8 percent of total earnings in the state, 5.3 percent of total employment and 5.4 percent of total GDP. It is hard to argue with those economic benefits.

Looking forward

I am pleased to report this column is the first in a series that will focus on international business and Utah’s connection to the world. The topic of international business is widely applicable. Just one example is trade agreements. What happens with the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will affect every Utah resident.

The TPP, which is being negotiated with 11 countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region, reduces almost all foreign trade barriers for U.S. companies in the areas where Utah exports the most: IT, chemicals, transportation products, and food products. T-TIP reduces barriers to entry in European markets, which would be particularly important to Utah’s medical device and nutraceutical companies. Countries included in these two trade agreements account for 64 percent of the world’s GDP.

If these agreements are passed, the result will be reduced barriers to trade with some of Utah’s top trading partners for our most exported products. This could increase the number of state exports to international destinations, thereby increasing the amount of revenue to our state. These additional funds could be used to improve things like infrastructure and education.

These trade agreements would allow access to billions of new customers, which is significant since 95 percent of consumers live outside of the United States, 85 percent of economic growth comes from outside of the U.S. and 70 percent of the world’s purchasing power is located outside of the U.S.

To maximize on the opportunities that exist outside of our borders, a goal has been set to double Utah exports over the next decade. In the globalized world in which we live, all companies have the potential to go global, and there are plenty of resources to help you do just that.



World Trade Center Utah

Services include market research and analysis, trade missions, trade shows, partner referrals, international business help desk, seminars, diplomatic hosting and a bi-monthly newsletter.

International Trade and Diplomacy Office in the Governor’s Office of Economic Development

Services include business mentoring, trade missions, recruitment of foreign Investors, marketing strategy consultations, in-country trade representatives and seminars.

U.S. Commercial Service Utah

A global network assists U.S. businesses and partners in entering and expanding into international markets, addressing barriers to accessing foreign markets, winning foreign government procurements and attracting inward investment.

Derek B. Miller is the president and CEO of World Trade Center Utah, an organization dedicated to helping Utah companies think, act and succeed globally.