Under Secretary of Commerce For International Trade Francisco SÁnchez
Leadership North Carolina
5th Annual Forum
Thursday, January 26, 2012
Raleigh, North Carolina
As prepared for delivery
Good afternoon and thank you all for that generous welcome.
It’s a pleasure to be back in North Carolina.
Great sites. Great barbeque. Great people. It’s been a really enjoyable trip.
But, more than anything, this visit gives me a chance to gloat. That’s because I’m a graduate of Florida State University. And this year in college basketball, FSU has beaten UNC Greensboro.
We beat the University of North Carolina — by 33 points. For those of you in the back who didn’t hear, I repeat — by 33 points.
This past weekend, we beat Duke — at Duke. Then just yesterday — we won at Wake Forest by 23 points.
But, I don’t want to rub it in. As your guest, I’ll be respectful. I won’t talk about our dominance over teams in North Carolina. I won’t dwell on these substantial victories.
Today, let’s all be friendly rivals. And, more importantly, let’s be partners for the future.
I thank you for the opportunity to be a part of Leadership North Carolina’s 5th Annual Forum.
In particular — I want to express my appreciation to your Secretary of Commerce — Keith Crisco — for those kind words of introduction.
The Secretary and I have a common history. During the Nixon Administration, he worked at the U.S. Department of Commerce. That’s where I work now.
Even 40 years later, I can say that the place misses you, Keith. But, he has gone on to do great things. He’s been a tremendous business leader, heading Asheboro Elastics for more than 20 years.
And, during my trip, I’ve seen incredible things happening in manufacturing here in North Carolina. And, I know that his leadership had a lot to do with this progress.
So, I thank the Secretary for his years of public service on behalf of people and businesses.
I also want to acknowledge all of today’s speakers. It’s a privilege to be on the same program with all of you.
Finally, let me thank Brian Etheridge, and all those with Leadership North Carolina, for your outstanding work.
President Kennedy once wrote that “leadership and learning are indispensible to each other.” And, it’s true.
The greatest leaders are never satisfied. They are in constant search of new ideas. And, across the country, these kinds of programs have equipped generations of leaders with new tools to push for progress.
I know this from personal experience. I was a member of Leadership Florida. It pains me to say this, but the year was 1989.
My hair was a lot less gray. But seriously, I know what a special experience this is. What I remember most are the people and the lessons learned.
Many of my classmates became lifelong friends. They went on to become Mayors, County Commissioners, and CEO’s and community leaders. They are making a difference. And, our leadership program made a lasting impact on all of us.
I’m sure you feel the same way. And, I commend you for showing tremendous leadership — already.
You are doing this on your free time. You are here because you care, and because you are concerned about your community and country.
Today, I’m here to tell you that President Obama — and all of us in the Administration — share your cares and concerns.
And, my message to you today is simple: let’s work together to seize the opportunities and address the challenges before us.
As North Carolina native — Michael Jordan — once said: “Talent wins games. But teamwork wins championships.” So, today, I want to talk about how we can team together.
Let me start by sharing a bit about what the President is doing, and what we are doing at the Department of Commerce. Then I want to end by talking about what we can do together to build a stronger North Carolina and a stronger America.
I’d like to start today by addressing a common concern — the economy. We come together during a challenging period in history.
When the President took office in 2009, the nation faced an historic economic crisis. The financial system was in trouble. This sent a ripple effect throughout the entire economy.
Communities — like many in my home state of Florida — were devastated by foreclosures. Streets were lined with storefronts covered with “Going Out of Business” signs.
It was an uncertain time.
4 million jobs were lost in the six months before President Obama took office. Another 4 million jobs were lost before his policies were put into place.
But, under the President’s leadership, we are now moving in the right direction.
A lot of good things are happening.
We’ve had 22 straight months of private sector growth. In total, this growth has resulted in 3.2 million jobs.
These are positive signs. But, make no mistake, we know the work is not finished. There is still a long way to go.
And, as we look ahead, we’ve got to rebuild a stronger and healthier economy. We can’t go back to the old days when growth was fueled by financial bubbles. Instead, we’ve got to have an American economy — built to last.
That was President Obama’s message earlier this week in his State of the Union Address. And, one of the key components of an economy built to last is a strong commitment to manufacturing.
Historically, manufacturing has created quality jobs and helped build the middle class. And, without a strong middle class, we can’t have a strong economy or a strong America.
Unfortunately, as we all know, in past years, manufacturing has faced challenges. But, the good news is that manufacturing is currently making a comeback. One quick example: 334,000 manufacturing jobs have been created over the last two years. Profits are up. Productivity is up.
And, we’ve got to keep this momentum going. Good things happen when we support manufacturing.
Just take a look at the auto industry. A few years ago, it was on the verge of collapse.
But, the President decided to work with the car companies — asking that they retool and restructure.
Now look — GM is number one again. Ford is investing in new American plants. Chrysler is growing. And, the President is determined to keep the good news coming.
One way is by urging American companies to bring jobs back — to our shores.
He has begun to put forward new tax proposals that reward companies that choose to bring jobs home and invest in America. He also proposes eliminating tax breaks for companies that move jobs overseas.
An economy built to last ensures that, whenever possible, American companies are producing American-made products put together by American workers.
That’s what we deeply believe in the Administration. I’m sure you share that same belief. North Carolina is home to some of the most innovative manufacturing products out there.
Yesterday, I visited Parkdale Mills in Gastonia, one of the world’s leading producers of spun yarn. The company now employs more than 4,400 workers. And, a good number of these workers were hired in just the last two years.
At NC State, I’ve seen firefighter suits being developed that not only protects people from heat — but chemical and biological hazards, as well.
I’ve seen parts produced for use in aerospace projects like the Honda Jet and the new Gulfstream. And, at the College of Textiles, I visited the new nonwoven partners lab. They are helping to develop the next generation of fiber-based filtration products for air, water and blood.
This is the kind of innovation we are seeing across North Carolina — from businesses large and small.
We in the Administration view your success as a key to America’s success. To recap: America’s success depends on an economy built to last. We view manufacturing as an essential part of this effort. North Carolina businesses are creating some of the most innovative manufacturing products.
So, the final step is to help sell these products.
I want more North Carolina manufacturers to export so that they can reach more markets and more customers. It makes good business sense.
Just look at the math: 95 percent of the world’s customers live outside the United States.
For a business to reach its full potential, they’ve got go where the customers are. They’ve got to sell in international markets.
Yet, the reality is that only 1 percent of all U.S. businesses export. And, of those that do, 58 percent export to only one market.
Clearly, more has to be done.
The President has correctly recognized this.
That’s why two years ago, in his State of the Union Address, he announced the National Export Initiative — or NEI as it is commonly referred to.
The goal is to double U.S. exports by the end of 2014. And, as Under Secretary of International Trade, it’s my job to help make it happen.
When the NEI was announced, there were some naysayers. One openly asked in the press how we would — and I quote — “perform this miracle.”
Well — so far — we are performing miracles.
I say that because we are on track to meet our NEI goals. The totals for 2011 won’t be out till next month.
But up to November, exports were up 15 percent. Why is this important?
Because exporting helps businesses sell their stuff. And, selling stuff helps strengthen bottom lines. And, strong businesses put people to work.
In 2010, U.S. exports supported 9.2 million jobs. North Carolina was a part of this economic activity. In the first three quarters of 2011, North Carolina was the 16th largest exporting state with export sales totaling $20 billion.
I commend Governor Purdue and Secretary Crisco for leading trade missions to China and India in the last year. They see the potential.
And, all of us at the International Trade Administration stand ready to help link local businesses with the world’s most promising economies.
We have offices in Charlotte, Greensboro and right here in Raleigh.
The staff knows what’s happening on the ground. They see the opportunities. And, they’re ready to help.
We are committed to helping U.S. businesses find new opportunities in the marketplace. Doing so will expand the circle of opportunity and strengthen the American economy.
As I come to a close, let me end where I began, by expressing my deep desire to partner with you — the leaders of North Carolina.
No matter what policies come out of Washington, DC — we fully realize that a lot of progress starts at the community level.
We recognize that the businesses here in North Carolina are producing some of the best quality products. We want to help you sell them all over the world.
This will strengthen your businesses and community, which strengthens the manufacturing sector, which helps shape an economy built to last.
These are goals that even a graduate of Florida State University and North Carolina natives can agree on.
So, I look forward to working with you in the future to make these goals a reality.
And, I look forward to our discussion today.
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