Days of grinding work by three interns who made hundreds of phone calls helped set the stage for Nevada's push to increase exports by small businesses.
Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki stood before television cameras in Carson City last week to introduce the initiative, which is largely financed by a $239,318 grant from the Small Business Administration.
Much of the money will be used to help small businesses some of them as small as one or two employees offset the costs of marketing into export markets, said Alan Di Stefano, director of global and trade and investment in the Nevada Office of Economic Development.
The state is moving quickly to find companies that can tap into the marketing funds because applications are due by Dec. 1. Companies must spend at least $5,000 to promote their exports, and the state will reimburse half of the expense. The maximum funding request is $12,500.
The marketing expenses whose cost will be reimbursed can range from translation of product labels to participation in export trade shows, Di Stefano said.
The state also is seeking businesses to participate in export-training classes that begin Nov. 17.
But Di Stefano says the effort to identify potential exporters among the state's small businesses got a major push forward after the three interns worked through a database of small-business employers in the state.
The trio of interns Brittany McLean, Ashley Mead and Jeni Castaneda, all from the University of Nevada, Reno called about 1,300 business owners to determine their potential interest in developing export markets. Approximately 50 companies statewide expressed interest, Di Stefano says.
Already, the state estimates that 400 companies statewide are involved in exports to 175 countries. Exports from Nevada companies range from electronic equipment to farm products, but precious minerals from the state's mines account for the biggest share.
The state's Office of Economic Development estimates that 30 percent of Nevada small businesses that aren't currently exporting are willing to venture into international markets if they have more information about potential overseas customers and export procedures.
Along with the export-marketing assistance, other aspects of Nevada's program to boost small business exports will include:
* A diplomatic luncheon next May in Las Vegas. Gov. Brian Sandoval will invite consuls general and the Nevada Consular Corps to the event.
* A state-directed trade mission on renewable energy that will target companies in Spain and Germany that might invest in the solar, geothermal and wind-power industries in Nevada.
* A Governor's Conference on Exports and Manufacturing next September in Reno.
State officials have dubbed the initiative "NITRO" an abbreviation for Nevada Investment and Trade Revenue Opportunities.
(For details about the program, or to register for events, go to nitro.nv.gov.)