Francisco J. Sánchez, Under Secretary of International Trade for the U.S. Department of Commerce, told South Florida business leaders on Friday that the relocation of the U.S. Export Assistance Center to Port Everglades is part of President Barack Obama's National Export Initiative (NEI) and solidifies the federal government's commitment to helping local businesses grow and expand in the global marketplace.

"Port Everglades is very important in helping us achieve the President's National Export Initiative (NEI) goal of doubling U.S. exports in five years, supporting several million American jobs," said Sánchez. "America's seaports are crucial to the success of the NEI, and are the nexus between the United States and the global economy."

The launch of the U.S. Export Assistance Center at Port Everglades presented Broward County's economic engines - Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, and the Broward County Office of Economic & Small Business Development - with an opportunity to pull area business leaders together for an executive-level, multi-organizational effort to expand the export trade in South Florida. Speakers at the meeting included Sánchez, U.S. Congressman Allen West, Broward County Mayor Sue Gunzburger and Port Everglades Director Phil Allen.

"In the past few years, small and medium-sized Florida firms generated nearly two-thirds of Florida's total exports of merchandise annually, far above the U.S. average for this sector, which is 30 percent. Yet 58 percent of all U.S. exporters, including small and medium-sized Florida business exporters, sell to only one foreign market," Congressman West told the audience. "More disturbing is the fact that 75 percent of U.S. companies with sales of less than $30 million are not doing any cross border or international business and don't intend to begin. Our mission is clear."

Broward Mayor Gunzburger told the crowd that exports from Port Everglades are estimated to support 55,500 jobs in the United States.

"The fact that there is a U.S. Export Assistance Center in Fort Lauderdale and the decision to relocate the office to Port Everglades -- Broward County's premier trade and tourism hub - is a testament to the current trade activity here and highlights the important partnership between the County and Federal Government which is sure to be strengthened by this move," Gunzburger said.

U.S. Customs District 52, which includes all seaports and airports in South Florida including Port Everglades, posted an international export surplus record of $22.2 billion in 2010 - the highest in the United States. Port Everglades ranks 11th in the country for seaport export trade, which totaled more than $11.1 billion in 2010. Only three other seaports in the country had a higher trade surplus than Port Everglades' $2.8 billion and none of those ports are in Florida.

"Ports are being targeted to lead the NEI because of our expertise in foreign trade. The Administration recognizes that ports have the knowledge of what it takes to do business overseas and the contacts to help local companies expand their business models to reach markets abroad," said Port Everglades Director Phil Allen.

"We applaud the U.S. Department of Commerce's plans to provide a straightforward platform for regulatory authorities, trade officials, and standards experts from different countries to work seamlessly together. We have committed to being a part of their team to promote regulatory best practices and assist their efforts to reduce or remove key technical barriers to exports of American products. Together, we will help prospective exporters find markets, financing and risk mitigation for foreign sales."

The U.S. Commercial Service is the trade promotion arm of the U.S. Department of Commerce's International Trade Administration. U.S. Commercial Service trade professionals in over 100 U.S. cities and in nearly 80 countries help U.S. companies get started in exporting or increase sales to new global markets. Services of the U.S. Commercial Service include:

• Market Intelligence to help U.S. exporters target the right market (s) for their products and services

• Trade Counseling to provide them with the information they need to navigate the export process from beginning to end

• Business Matchmaking services to connect them with the right partners and prospects

• Trade Advocacy for U.S companies to level the international playing field for international procurement

To learn more about how the U.S. Commercial Service helps U.S. companies export, contact the U.S. Commercial Service Export Assistance Center at Port Everglades at 954-356-6640.

As one of South Florida's leading economic powerhouses, Port Everglades is the gateway for international trade and cruise vacations. Already one of the busiest cruise ports worldwide, Port Everglades is also one of the nation's leading container ports. And, Port Everglades is South Florida's main seaport for receiving petroleum products including gasoline, jet fuel and alternative fuels. The Port Everglades Department is a self-supporting Enterprise Fund of Broward County government with operating revenues of approximately $124.7 million in Fiscal Year 2010 (October 1, 2009 through September 30, 2010). It does not rely on local tax dollars for operations. The total value of economic activity at Port Everglades is almost $14 billion. More than 143,000 Florida jobs are impacted by the Port, including more than10,000 people who work for companies that provide direct services to Port Everglades.