Since its founding, trade has been an important part of our region’s economy. The Illinois River has always been our gateway to the rest of the country and the world. River transportation was augmented by a robust rail system and then the modern interstate highway system. Add to that the Peoria International Airport (recently named one of the fastest growing airports in the nation) and the world is at your fingertips. This gives us a tremendous competitive advantage. There are not many regions that can boast as many logistical assets as Greater Peoria.
How important is international trade to the region? How big does the number $7.3 billion sound to you? That is the value of exported goods produced in the Peoria area in 2016. That number puts us second behind only Chicago and over three times the volume of Rockford. According to the International Trade Administration, exporting supported 325,000 jobs in Illinois. While a local number isn’t available, you can bet that thousands of jobs in our region depend on trade with foreign countries.
While we all recognize that companies like Caterpillar, Keystone and Komatsu are big players in international trade, the topic is just as important to much smaller companies. On June 4, the State of Illinois International Trade Task Force organized a business roundtable with a number of these smaller exporters. The event was co-hosted by the City of Peoria (Mayor Jim Ardis was appointed to the task force by the Governor), Bradley’s Illinois SBDC International Trade Center, and GPEDC. The attendees included Simformotion, a company that makes machine simulators for Caterpillar; DoMor Equipment, a company that makes road construction equipment attachments; Micro Products Company, a producer of welding machines for the wire and cable industry; Gator Guards, a marine coating company; and Natural Fiber Welding, a startup textile company.
These companies shared their successes and struggles on the international scene. They gave input to the task force regarding how Illinois could be more competitive in trade. But sitting there as an interested observer, I was amazed at how sophisticated these relatively small companies were in engaging an entire world market. They are examples of how great things are happening in Greater Peoria.
How does GPEDC support international trade? One way is through our management of Foreign Trade Zone #114. The Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ) program allows local manufacturers and warehouses to defer, reduce, or eliminate duties on imported materials that are used in a value-add process. How does this impact exporting? A good deal of these local manufacturers end up shipping their goods back overseas. FTZ allows them to reduce cost to remain competitive. According to the Foreign Trade Zones Board’s report to Congress, in 2016, Peoria’s FTZ was the tenth largest exporter in the nation. You can learn more about the FTZ here.
So remember, shop locally but sell globally.