A new council has been formed to promote international trade and foreign investment in St. Clair and Madison counties.
Madison County Board Chairman Alan Dunstan and St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern recently announced the formation of the Southwestern Illinois Trade and Investment Council.
The council has three objectives: increase awareness of global exporting as an opportunity for economic stability and growth in Southwestern Illinois; identify barriers and form strategies that discourage or limit exports from the region; and encourage existing and potential global exporters in the region to participate in and support programs developed by the council.
“The council will help our two counties capitalize on the export of products produced or grown in our area and further strengthen our reputation as the finest distribution center in the country,” Dunstan said.
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Illinois was fifth in the country in total exports last year with more than $68 billion in international shipments.
Frank Miles, community development administrator for Madison County, said the council has a different role than the recently formed freight district being run by Bi-State Development.
The freight district’s role is to identify opportunities for transportation logistics and warehousing, among other things, where the trade council will be about increasing awareness of trade and international development in Southwestern Illinois, Miles said.
“It’s about marketing trade in the area and helping bring awareness of trade and exporting opportunities to businesses that are here,” Miles said. “We’ve found that there are many businesses that like to be involved in the foreign importing and exporting of products but don’t know how to go about it.”
Miles said North Bay, which has a location at MidAmerica Airport, is pursuing import opportunities from South America and Asia, and the America’s Central Port in the Tri-Cities area has trade with China.
According to the International Trade Center at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, industries in the state with significant export potential include industrial machinery, agricultural products, transportation equipment, chemicals, computers, electronic and electrical products, metals and plastics.
The council will help our two counties capitalize on the export of products produced or grown in our area and further strengthen our reputation as the finest distribution center in the country.
Alan Dunstan, chairman of the Madison County Board
Kern said the council can have a key role in helping businesses and manufacturers in the two counties take advantage of foreign investments.
“St. Clair and Madison counties are poised for growth and investment,” Kern said. “Our counties have an excellent infrastructure system, strong manufacturing and agricultural areas, and offer a highly skilled and educated work force. The Trade and Investment Council will ensure the international business community is aware of the excellent opportunities that exist in Southwestern Illinois.”
The council is made up of 25 members including 15 private sector exporters, the two county board chairmen, two regional port representatives, three regional airport representatives, a freight forwarder and two banking representatives.
There also is ex-officio representation from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Illinois Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Commerce, Southern Illinois University International Trade Center and Madison and St. Clair counties.
Members of the council are primarily volunteers, with staffing needs coming from the International Trade Center at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville and Madison and St. Clair counties, Miles said
The council plans to meet quarterly, Miles said.
“We would know we are successful by increasing activity in trade and development opportunities,” Miles said.
▪ Illinois was fifth in the country in total exports last year with more than $68 billion in international shipments.
▪ In 2014, products from Illinois were sent to 217 countries including Canada, Mexico, China, Germany, Japan,
Australia, Brazil, Belgium, United Kingdom and Netherlands.
▪ In 2013, 90 percent of Illinois exporters were small and medium-sized businesses.
Source: International Trade Center at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville