By STEVE BROWN
Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire has offered the state as a lead actor in the National Export Initiative, President Barack Obama's plan to double the nation's exports by 2015.
"Washington is the gateway to Asia, and those trading partners have not been hit as hard as other areas around the world," Gregoire said in a news release. "We need to continue to increase our efforts to reach out to those trading partners."
Over the next five years, Gregoire hopes the state export initiative will increase the number of companies exporting by 30 percent and help 5,000 Washington businesses achieve $600 million in new export sales.
"We already export a broad diversity of Washington-grown food products to consumers around the world," Dan Newhouse, director of the Washington State Department of Agriculture, said. "The governor is offering our industry an opportunity to increase these exports, expand our industry and increase jobs, especially in rural communities, with products from apples to wine and oysters to wheat."
Gregoire's six-point plan includes:
* Working as partners with the U.S. Department of Commerce to identify new export opportunities
* Directing the Community Economic Revitalization Board to dedicate $3 million for export counseling to companies seeking to export for the first time
* Implementing a "Farm-to-Market Initiative" to enhance the competitiveness of agricultural enterprises
* Enhancing the state's standing as a destination for foreign students and encouraging Washington students to study abroad
* Expanding relationships with overseas trading partners
* Ensuring a fully funded federal Transportation Reauthorization Act that includes infrastructure investments that enhance Washington's ability to move goods efficiently
With 8,000 Washington companies currently exporting, the state is the largest U.S. exporter on a per capita basis, according to the WSDA. Approximately 4 percent of Washington companies export.
For companies seeking export assistance, Washington's Department of Commerce has set up a dedicated e-mail account: email@example.com