Local economic development officials are hoping to encourage more Richmond-area businesses to export their products and services to overseas markets, and a report due in June will help set a strategy for that.
Research for the strategic plan is being conducted by the Center for Urban and Regional Analysis at Virginia Commonwealth University and two local economic development groups — the Greater Richmond Partnership and Virginia’s Gateway Region.
More than 200 local businesses were surveyed, and others participated in interviews and focus groups to help determine what kind of services are needed for businesses in the region to develop export markets.
“There is a lot more potential for exporting,” said Greg Wingfield, a fellow at the Center for Public Policy at Virginia Commonwealth University’s L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs.
“Part of it is just getting people to recognize that there is an opportunity. It is not difficult if you have the service providers that can help through each of the steps.”
Wingfield, the retired president and chief executive officer of the Greater Richmond Partnership, is among those working on the strategic plan, which has been in development for about a year.
Wingfield gave an update on its progress to local businesspeople Tuesday morning in a meeting hosted by the participating groups at the Williams Mullen Center in downtown Richmond.
Some details of the survey were revealed last fall. It found that 83 percent of the 200 businesses are not exporting their products and services, but about half the respondents said they would consider exporting if they could identify the right markets and obtain financing.
The local economic development groups decided to develop a strategic plan after recognizing that economic development should focus not only on recruiting new businesses to the region but also on strategies for increasing exports of the region’s products and services to growing foreign markets.
The overarching goal of the strategic plan is to increase exports from small- and medium-size enterprises in the Richmond region by 40 percent by 2020.
When the report is done, “what (businesses) are going to see is a lot of different opportunities to engage,” said John Accordino, a professor of urban and regional planning at VCU and director of the school’s Center for Urban and Regional Analysis, which is also doing research for the plan.
That could include opportunities for businesses that are already exporting to serve as mentors for those that are not.
“If they are not exporting, and the vast majority are not, then they are going to see ways that they can access services they did not know about before,” Accordino said.