Georgia's International Trade Division has identified Gainesville as a "priority location" to carry out a new program to increase Georgia's small business exports.
The Georgia Department of Economic Development is trying to get the word out to area companies about the Reaching Out Worldwide Step by Step program, which is funded through a $973,429 U.S. Small Business Administration grant.
In addition to the federal State Trade and Export Promotion grant, the state also received a $100,000 Global Appalachia Export Development grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission, an economic development agency that spans Appalachia and includes Hall County.
Both grants "intend to increase the number of small business exporters and the volume of exports," said Kathe Falls, director of international trade for the state Department of Economic Development, in a phone interview this week.
The department singled out Gainesville, Toccoa, Dalton, Cartersville and Rome as regional hubs to stir up interest in the program, she said.
"Gainesville was a natural choice for its manufacturing base," Falls said, citing 86 companies that are involved in exporting.
As part of the Georgia Competitiveness Initiative, started last year, the business community in Economic Development Region 2 that includes Hall "voted for each of their primary issues and different areas of focus, and exports and new markets was the No. 1 issue ... under global commerce," Falls said.
The program calls for educating small businesses and community leaders, especially those in rural communities, about exporting and export programs.
Also, it will work to connect Georgia suppliers with international buyers at trade shows, through incoming delegations and an online "Georgia Exporters' Directory."
Harry Bagwell, owner of Georgia Chair Co. in Gainesville, was able to open up sales opportunities through a trade mission in October to the Dominican Republic.
Without some outside help, such efforts would be a struggle. "Cold calling is hard to do in another country where you don't speak the language," Bagwell said.
Efforts involving the exports industry are invaluable to the economy, Falls noted.
"Exports create twice as many jobs as domestic trade," she said. "For every job created in making the product, another job is created in getting the product to market."
Shelley Davis, the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce's vice president for existing industry, said she believes that "having the state bring more export interest and experience on the logistics of exporting will increase our local businesses' competitiveness in the world marketplace."
According to the chamber's 2011 Industry Directory survey, 60 percent of companies "reported that they do export some of their manufactured product, so increasing that is a win-win to bring the dollar back around."