Sales of Idaho products to other countries rose 54 percent for the first three months of 2010 compared to sales numbers from a year earlier. The Idaho Department of Commerce said Idaho businesses sold $1.2 billion in exported goods from January to March. More than half of those sales were in high tech products, including semiconductors for electronic devices. Food and agricultural products and transportation equipment also sold more than $100 million to other countries during that span.
“Idaho’s export results for the first quarter of 2010 show positive signs the economy in improving,” Damien Bard, the administrator of the commerce department’s international business division, said in a news release. “Exports in Idaho and across the United States still are a key piece to helping drive the U.S. economy.” Idaho exports rose 8.5 percent from the last three months of 2009 to the first three months of 2010. Nationally, export growth was less than 1 percent.
Sales of Idaho goods to foreign countries are still below their record levels before the economic recession. Export sales reached a high-water mark of $1.29 billion in the first quarter of 2008. "It's somewhat close to on-par with 2008," Bard told IdahoReporter.com. He said the the recession started affecting exports just over a year ago, which is why the latest increase is good news for a recovery.
Canada, Singapore, Taiwan, and China are Idaho’s biggest export buyers, accounting for 64 percent of export sales. The state commerce department runs trade offices in Taiwan, China, and Mexico, and Gov. Butch Otter will travel to China next month on a trade mission with Idaho business leaders.
The Idaho Department of Commerce is receiving $4.2 million in taxpayer funds for the current fiscal year and $4.1 million for the next fiscal year, which begins in July. The department also receives federal funds and some dedicated funds for its annual budget of approximately $30 million.
"We focus our efforts on small and medium-sized companies," Bard said. "We counsel with them to identify markets of opportunity. Once they've identified those markets, we develop an export plan to export those products to those countries." In addition to international trade, the department also works on locating businesses in Idaho, tourism development, community and rural development, and other programs intended to help the state economy.
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