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Emphasis on exports: Senators stress importance of rural companies’ involvement

Pet Care Systems director of operations Tom Moses, right, gives a tour of his workplace to Sen. Amy Klobuchar, DL mayor Matt Brenk, Sen. Kent Eken, Rep. Paul Marquart and Rep. Collin Peterson Tuesday, July 1. DL NEWSPAPERS/Brian Basham

Exports are an important part of the local economy, and government can help even small companies tap the export market, said U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who toured a Detroit Lakes cat litter company on Tuesday.

Pet Care Systems, with just 13 employees, exports to Hong Kong and Canada, she said.

With the help of a savvy Foreign Commercial Service worker in Fargo, who also serves northwestern Minnesota, one specialized vehicle manufacturer expanded from four to 40 employees, she said. Among other technical support, the worker “helped them find countries that have a lot of swamps,” Klobuchar said.

U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson joined Klobuchar on the tour, as did state lawmakers Paul Marquart and Kent Eken, Becker County commissioner John Okeson and Detroit Lakes Mayor Matt Brenk.

“To emphasize the importance of the Farm Bill, that’s why I’m here with Collin (at Pet Care Systems, which is owned by Farmers Union Industries and uses wheat to make its products),” said Klobuchar.

Area businesses can serve as successful examples in exporting for other parts of the country, said Arun Kumar, assistant secretary of commerce for global markets and director general of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service.

Kumar toured areacompanies Tuesday, including WCCO Belting in Wahpeton, N.D., and Titan Machinery in Moorhead.

Kumar said he’s excited about the exporting that’s happening here.

“It’s a truly inspiring story, to see the technology and innovative products that are coming out of here and going around the world,” Kumar said.

“Every entrepreneur should think of exports from day one,” Kumar said. “It’s really amazing how transformational exports are.”

Kumar’s visit was hosted by U.S. Sens. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who touted the economic importance of rural exports.

Hoeven said there are now more resources to aid companies in exporting, including increased funding for the U.S. Commercial Service, which has field offices in 107 U.S. cities, including Fargo, and in 76 countries.

The 2014 farm bill included programs that provide matching funds to promote rural agricultural industries and products, and for efforts to reduce foreign import restrictions and promote free and fair markets, he said.

Under the Rural Export Initiative, the U.S. Commercial Service will bring commercial specialists from Brazil and Australia to Fargo in the near future for one-on-one meetings with local companies.

Recently enacted export control reform also eases red tape for many manufacturers, Klobuchar said.

The U.S. Commercial Service isn’t just focused on American companies selling their goods overseas, but in attracting foreign companies to invest directly in rural areas. A local example of that is India-based Tech Mahindra in Fargo, which Kumar also visited Tuesday.

Kumar said North Dakota should continue to “do more of the same” to encourage exporting. He encourages communities and states to be strategic and more proactive.

In related export news, U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., with U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., on Tuesday stressed the importance of reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank in a conference call.

The credit agency will expire Sept. 30, and some conservative groups are campaigning to let its charter expire, calling it crony capitalism.

While 90 percent of the bank’s transactions are for small businesses, 80 percent of its funding has gone to large corporations. Some Republicans have said they prefer to reform the agency with reauthorization, versus letting the charter lapse.

The Export-Import Bank has supported $97 million in exports from North Dakota since 2007, Heitkamp’s office said, also noting it operates at no cost to taxpayers and last year sent $1 billion to the U.S. Treasury.

Heitkamp said entrepreneurs understand they need to look across their borders if they want to succeed. Not reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank in a timely fashion causes uncertainty and disruption.

“We need to start doing our business in the United States Congress according to a business schedule,” she said.

Howard Dahl, CEO of Fargo-based Amity Technology, said his company’s competitors in Germany, France and Italy have access to financiers like the Export-Import Bank which makes it crucial for U.S. companies to have the same.

Heitkamp likened not re-authorizing the bank to “unilateral disarmament.”

Hoeven and Klobuchar both said Tuesday they support the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank.

(DL Newspapers reporter Nathan Bowe contributed to this story)

Sherri Richards

Sherri Richards has worked for The Forum since 2002. She is the features and business editor, overseeing Variety, SheSays, Farmers' Forum, the daily Business pages and Saturday Business section.     Have a comment to share about a story? Letters to the editor should include author’s name, address and phone number. Generally, letters should be no longer than 250 words. All letters are subject to editing. Send to

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