Missouri export sales totaled $14.5 billion in fiscal 2018, with sales totaling over $263.1 million in the Meramec region, according to the Meramec Regional Planning Commission.

Natascha Lord, with the Missouri Department of Economic Development, said the Meramec Regional Planning Commission's board members, that a variety of possibilities are available to the region to increase export sales with Crawford County having the most export sales in 2018. 

Phelps County had export sales totaling $44.3 million in 2018. Crawford County had the most export sales with $77.1 million in fiscal 2018, with Pulaski County exporting the least having only $4.9 million in sales. Computer and electronic product manufacturing, chemical manufacturing and food manufacturing were the top exports in the region. 

Missouri has 12 foreign offices, which can provide free services to Missouri businesses wanting to export goods, according to Lord.

Those services include:

— Agent distributor search flagship product of her office that assists in finding international customers.

— Conducting background checks.

— Customizing marketing and research.

— Issuing certificates of free sale.

— Export financing. 

— Customizing company missions, setting up appointments with potential partners.

— Transportation and logistics. 

— Interpretation services.

Lord touched on two different types of export programs that the Missouri Department of Economic Development offers to benefit Missouri businesses and encourage international exports, at the commission’s August meeting. 

The first is the State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) grant program. This three-year pilot trade and export initiative works to make matching-fund grants for states to assist eligible small businesses owners enter and succeed in the international marketplace. 

The program is funded in part by the Small Business Administration and provides support for participation in foreign trade missions and market sales trips, subscription to services provided by the Department of Commerce, design of international marketing products and campaigns, export trade show exhibits, training and other efforts that align with the STEP goals, Lord said. 

The second opportunity, Lord discussed with the board, was the Global Market Access Program (G-MAP). This program works to target small businesses, primarily manufacturers, with 500 employees or less and with annual sales of $25 million or less. The  program works to help businesses participate in trade shows that market their products to a worldwide audience through a cost-share. These businesses must strive to export “Made in Missouri” products that have content consisting of 51 percent of Missouri manufactured parts, labor or value-added content.

Missouri businesses can qualify for up to $15,000 for each program, for a total of $30,000 for marketing each year. 

In other business, Meramec Regional Planning Commission's board members heard a legislative update from Ray Bozarth with Republican Senator Josh Hawley’s office, about spending caps, the BRO program, and the Rocheport Bridge INFRA grant award. The board requested help in soliciting silent auction items for the Commission’s Oct. 24 Annual Dinner and Awards Banquet to be held in Waynesville at the Stonebrooke Center. The board approved staff salary comparisons, approved a loan to a Salem business though Meramec Regional Planning Commission’s Revolving Loan Fund and heard an update from Central Workforce Development Board Chair T.R. Dudley on changes within the workforce investment board. 

Membership dues letters are to be mailed soon to reflect a 3 percent increase approved by the board last year, and the board approved the hour allocation policy that sets forth the number of hours included with membership with hours being the same as in fiscal 2018.

The Meramec Regional Planning Commission is a voluntary council of governments serving Crawford, Dent, Gasconade, Maries, Osage, Phelps, Pulaski and Washington counties and their respective cities. Gasconade County Presiding Commissioner Larry Miskel serves as chairman of the board. A staff of 25 offers technical assistance and services, such as grant preparation and administration, housing assistance, transportation planning, environmental planning, ordinance codification, business loans and other services to member communities.