Opinion Columns & Blogs

Karyn Page: Capitalize on city's top export ranking

The spotlight is shining on Wichita as a recent Brookings Institution study identified our community's remarkable success in doubling our exports.

Our first-place ranking in export growth garnered national press coverage. Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., also praised it on the floor of the U.S. Senate and called for the Obama administration to support the export community, emphasizing our aircraft manufacturing cluster that is the envy of the world.

This good news is tempered by the recent economic decline that continues to hamper our progress. The study covered the years 2003 to 2008, a boom period for much of the country.

Like most communities, Wichita suffered a dramatic economic decline in 2009 and 2010. In 2009, total exports from the state of Kansas did not reach the totals for 2007, which means we took a step backward. Wichita generates about half of the state's exports and experienced a similar setback.

Though that decline was painful and disappointing, our manufacturing cluster now has the opportunity to resume a high level of export activity and achieve even greater success in global markets.

As a community, we should ask ourselves: What can we do to take full advantage of the national attention of the Brookings report and the opportunities it creates?

On many fronts, the challenge falls to our community leaders to accelerate our return to national prominence in export performance.

The Kansas World Trade Center and its partners in the public and private sectors recognize that challenge and are committed to providing the necessary guidance and advocacy.

Moving forward, we can expect a more coordinated effort that links our community, the state of Kansas and national resources to maximize our presence in the export marketplace.

To be successful, we have to be innovative and aggressive in pursuit of new opportunities. An example is Wichita's ecopartnership with the Chinese city of Wuxi, a unique initiative sanctioned by the federal government and managed by the Kansas World Trade Center.

The ecopartnership's initial objective is to improve the environmental practices protecting our clean air and water. But it also created an opportunity to establish new export markets and diversify our portfolio of exportable goods and services.

Our national status as a leading export community also brings the responsibility to pay attention to national and international issues that affect global markets. The Obama administration and our congressional delegation need our informed support as it fights for fair trade and a favorable climate for expanded exports.

Our most immediate opportunity is the upcoming Wichita visit by the chairman of the Export-Import Bank of the United States. The Aug. 12 visit is extremely well timed in the wake of the Brookings Institution report.

It is essential that our community learns about the resources available from the federal government. And it is equally important that bank chairman Fred Hochberg leave Wichita with a clear picture of what we need to regain our prominence in global markets.