A year ago, I sent out a newsletter focused on the economic health of our region, the need for an increase in the number of jobs and an increase in the wage levels too.

Your public sector governments, as well as the private sector, have chosen to make economic development and job creation as our top priority. We are working together, striving to cultivate that mix of businesses large and small, to provide more jobs and the increased income levels that foster the high quality of life that you desire.

Starting this fiscal year, Metro, your regional government, is investing, along with other local public and private partners, in a multi-year program, an export initiative, aimed at helping local businesses expand their global market reach, thereby achieving increased market success and more employment growth. Our Portland-Vancouver metropolitan region is fortunate to be one of four metropolitan areas in the United States, joining Minneapolis-St. Paul, Syracuse and Los Angeles, to participate in a Metropolitan Export Initiative fostered by The Brookings Institution.

Our metropolitan economy is rich with small- and medium-size enterprises that have limited awareness of global opportunities or of the local export services and programs which are available.

What that means is that there is significant untapped potential. We can create and sustain regional jobs through export growth, promoting a strong export culture and increase the number of businesses exporting. But is trade really growing? Yes.

Expansion in trade continues after a drop during the recession, with positive results initially led by recovery in U.S. exports to Asia. Emerging markets such as Brazil, Russia, India and China are growing faster than here in the United States, as they are importing more commodities and finished goods. Ninety-five percent of the world’s consumers live outside the United States and 90 percent of the fastest growing metropolitan areas are outside of the United States and Western Europe.

Put simply, these emerging markets provide economic growth opportunities for our local businesses.

Some companies in our region export products but do so to just one country today. Many companies would like to expand their market reach into additional countries, but see entering new markets as a large hurdle. This is understandable as the words unknown and unfamiliar come to mind.

Each country in the world is unique, often with unique requirements for importing products and then distributing them to potential customers. By offering export services and market entry assistance to our local businesses, we can lower the learning curve and help interested local businesses expand their market reach with greater success. Our region is already an effective trade port — a gateway — with air, marine, rail and trucking facilities. We have many valuable products, computers and electronics, metals and machinery, food and agriculture products just to name a few.

Long-term, the U.S. export potential is great as underlying global import demand and the world economy grow faster than the U.S. economy.

Not only is our region poised to take advantage of this, but Metro and others are investing resources over the next few years to capitalize on this opportunity. By taking advantage of what we have, to grow the businesses that are here, you and your children will have valuable jobs, safe neighborhoods and a healthy community to live for the many years ahead.

Kathryn Harrington represents Metro's District 4, which includes northern Washington County, Cornelius, Hillsboro and Forest Grove.

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