Fargo Forum

By Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Hoeven (R-ND)

As the senators of Minnesota and North Dakota, we know it’s not just the Red River that brings our states together, it’s also a belief that no matter where you live in America, you should be able to start a company and export to the world. Supporting rural exports is good for businesses and good for our states’ economies. In 2019, Minnesota and North Dakota together exported almost $29 billion worth of goods, including medical devices, tractors and airplane parts.

Many businesses that don’t have the resources to hire their own trade experts have received key trade advice from the U.S. Commercial Service, a federal agency dedicated to helping American businesses identify foreign markets and export to the world.

Last month, we visited one of the companies that has worked with the U.S. Commercial Service, Swanson Health Products. We toured their facility in Fargo. In its 52-year history, Swanson has grown from a family operation to one employing 490 workers across North Dakota and Minnesota. In that time, the U.S. Commercial Service has helped Swanson expand by identifying new customers in Latin American markets and working with them to ship products overseas.

Another example of an exporter in our region is Mattracks, based in Karlstad, Minnesota, a town of 795 residents. Their signature rubber track conversion system was dreamed up by the founder’s 11-year-old son, Matt, when he drew a picture of a large truck with tracks instead of tires. His dad brought the drawing to his shop, and after years of tinkering, he had a patent and a product to sell. Today, since collaborating with the U.S. Commercial Service on strategies to distribute his rubber track conversion systems around the world, his company exports to all seven continents and employs dozens of workers in Minnesota.

The U.S. Commercial Service has helped countless companies develop their export strategies by identifying the right international markets and buyers.

Together we are leading efforts to pass the bipartisan Promoting Rural Exports Act to create a Rural Export Center within the U.S. Commercial Service to help rural businesses export their products to new international markets. Small businesses in rural areas shouldn’t be denied opportunities just because of their location, and our bill will boost exports and advance innovation in our rural communities so they can continue to grow.

In 2019 and 2020, we successfully secured funding for a Rural Export Center, and we have already seen how much good it’s done for businesses. In the 16 months since it opened, this center has guided 1,900 small and medium-sized businesses toward greater opportunities in key export markets, and more than 1,800 people have participated in trainings and webinars led by the Center. Now it’s time to pass our bill and permanently establish the Rural Export Center within the U.S. Commercial Service.

We’re going to keep working together across the aisle—and across the river—to get our bill signed into law so that businesses in Minnesota and North Dakota can benefit for years to come.

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