Step 2: Putting Together the Export Plan

This section focuses on developing an export strategy and plan, based on the regional data assessment.


Export strategy depends heavily on the size, scale, and resources of a regional EDO.

General Insights for all Regional EDOs

A priority for all regional EDOs — both small- and large-scale — is to connect regional exporters with existing state and federal export assistance programs. Those larger EDOs with sufficient resources can also offer (or collaborate to offer) their own programs that fill gaps in the export ecosystem. This should be tightly coordinated with state and federal partners.

Effective regional EDOs strive to fill in gaps, and not duplicate existing state and federal programs

  • An important role for all regional EDOs is connecting exporters with existing state and federal export promotion programs.
  • Some larger regional EDOs, often located in major metro areas, also offer their own export promotion programs. To be effective these efforts should be tightly coordinated with state and federal trade programs and designed to fill gaps (e.g., supporting tradeshows or trade missions in sectors or countries that are important to the region, but do not duplicate state efforts). Our research highlighted the challenges of regional EDOs engaging in export promotion, and the need for them to be focused and coordinated with state and federal partners to avoid duplication of effort.
  • Regional EDOs can identify the base of existing exporters and export-ready companies and foster development of a pipeline of companies that are becoming export-ready. Again, a regional EDO should collaborate with federal and state partners to develop plans to mobilize and educate regional companies about export opportunities and support programs. Research highlighted the value of regional EDOs being able to talk with companies in their region about exporting and referring them to state and federal resources.
  • Regional export strategy relies on identifying key target sectors or clusters as a basis for developing plans for support services, such as training or trade show support (and ensuring that regional, state, and federal programs adequately support these key regional clusters).
  • Regions can identify high potential export countries based on a number of factors, including top destination countries for current export sales, growth opportunities identified by exporters in the region, state target industries, and existing relationships between a region and specific foreign markets (e.g., sister city relationships, proximity to the market, sectors or clusters in overseas markets that are customers of clusters/sectors in your region). The goal is to foster and leverage connections to these markets.

Larger Regional EDOs

Larger-scale and better-resourced EDOs are able to offer some of their own export promotion services, in coordination and collaboration with state and federal partners.

Larger regional and metro EDOs are positioned to deliver some of their own export promotion services, including:

  • Education and training programs (again, if coordinated with state and federal trade organizations).
  • Export planning and acceleration programs, which help companies develop export plans, provide trade education, and connect companies with the various trade promotion resources available from state, federal, and private sector entities. An example is Chicago Regional Growth Corporation’s Metro Chicago Exports Program “Pitch Competitions” (and their leadership in the delivery of ExporTech in collaboration with the Illinois Manufacturing Extension Center [IMEC], the U.S. Commercial Service and other partners).
  • Programs focused on building relationships with specific foreign markets that are important for the region, such as sister city relationships, initiatives to promote cross-border trade between border states and Mexico, or trade missions (that do not duplicate state and federal trade missions, but rather focus effort on specific countries that offer opportunity for regional exporters).
  • Programs focused on supporting important regional industries or clusters that may benefit from additional attention, beyond what state and federal trade programs offer.

Key Plan Components

The export plan might include the components identified in our Regional Export Plan Outline. At the heart of the plan are some of the strategic issues highlighted above:

  • Outreach to exporters and potential exporters in the region
  • Bringing export support services to regional companies, either through connection to state and federal resources or offering new programs to fill gaps
  • Identifying key traded sectors/clusters and country markets that are important for your region (Programs can be targeted at these sectors and countries.)

Prioritizing Target Sectors/Clusters

Targets for export support might include regional sectors or clusters that:

  • Represent large numbers of companies and/or employment
  • Offer significant growth potential
  • Have competitive strengths or unique assets
  • Are identified as state target industries or clusters
  • Include a significant number of foreign investors

Prioritizing Target Country Markets

Factors to consider in prioritizing export target countries:

  • Top current destination markets for regional exporters and major sectors/clusters
  • Countries where regional exports are growing
  • Countries that represent growth opportunity (based on exporter client feedback)
  • Peer regions that have similar clusters or specializations, which could represent potential customers for major sectors or clusters in your region
  • Countries or regions where a region has partnerships, such as sister cities, academic, research, or innovation partnerships
  • Regions that are close by, such as Mexico and Canada
  • Other market factors and barriers (such as ease of doing business, corruption, IP protections)
  • Connections to global regions that are relevant to FDI, such as countries which have made foreign investments in your region


See Brookings plan outline and other guidance in Brookings guide to writing a metro export plan and Brookings — Ten steps to delivering a successful metro export plan