Blog By: President & CEO, Maureen Donohue Krauss

It’s Michigan World Trade Week, and if you are a company in the Detroit Region with a product or service that’s valued in the U.S. market, consider taking it international this year.

Too often, businesses fail to realize their growth potential in the export market. Over the years, I’ve heard every excuse. “We aren’t large enough.” “We don’t speak the language.” “We can’t overextend ourselves.” “We don’t know where to start.”

Those are good reasons to be strategic and thoughtful, but shouldn’t prevent you from going global, especially when Michigan companies exported more than $50 billion in goods in 2019.

At the Detroit Regional Partnership, we help outside investors navigate our 11-county region. Sixty percent of our focus is with international companies, many who face language and cultural challenges coming here. That same expertise applies to Michigan companies that want to enter international trade and export.

For those business owners or executives hesitating on taking the plunge, here are a few things to consider:


Dipping your toes in the water is often the hardest step.

Entering international markets is a different ball game. But this region and state have a world-class network of contact organizations with the expertise to guide you along the way. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Automation Alley, International Trade

Administration, Michigan State University’s International Business Center, Grand Valley State University’s Van Andel Global Trade Center, and the Michigan Small Business Development Center all can help executives take that first sometimes scary step and connect you to the right people and places to succeed internationally.


New York and LA have nothing on our experts.

There is a second layer of expertise that has developed over decades in support of the automotive industry. You don’t need to go to New York or Los Angeles to find law and accounting firms or banks specializing in international trade. The Detroit Region has its own premier cluster and their expertise in foreign languages, governments and markets transcend industries. They assist businesses in avoiding costly pitfalls and mistakes and can help international novices navigate any market in nearly any country like seasoned veterans.


The Detroit Region’s global brand remains strong and opens doors.

Economies are regional and cities matter. Companies in the Detroit Region have a distinct advantage because they hail from a region that serves as the epicenter of the global automotive and mobility industry. That provides a global name ID that’s invaluable. Detroit is

revered around the world and many cities and regions aspire to emulate our ingenuity in their corner of the world. Our brand opens doors for Michigan companies.


You don’t need to be a giant corporation to thrive.

A total of 14,446 companies exported from Michigan locations in 2016. Of those, 89 percent were small and medium-sized enterprises with fewer than 500 employees, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. Yes, there are large corporations in international trade, but there are thousands of much smaller ones making very large profits.


There’s an international market right next door.

Many readers can see a lucrative export market just by looking out the window. Canada is the United States’ largest annual export partner to the tune of $22.4 billion annually. And our region sits on the busiest U.S.-Canada border crossing in North America. Those numbers and the proximity alone should be reason enough for any business with a product to ask themselves: “It is time to develop an international export strategy?”


Make this Michigan World Trade Week the moment you decided to go global

As we celebrate Michigan World Trade Week – we encourage businesses who want to explore taking their customer base global to contact us at the Detroit Regional Partnership and put our region’s international connectivity to work for you. We have a team ready to help you make the best decision. There’s no harm in exploring and you just might wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.


Maureen Donohue Krauss is the president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Partnership, a public-private economic development partnership focused on marketing and business attraction for the 11-county Detroit Region.

Statistic Box

Michigan’s Trade and Export

– Michigan was the 8th largest state for exported goods in 2019

– 14,400+ companies exported goods from Michigan in 2016

– $55.3 billion in goods exported from Michigan in 2019

Source: Office of the United States Trade Representative