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    Greater Philadelphia Export Plan

During 2015, the Economy League and the World Trade Center of Greater Philadelphia brought together business leaders, state and federal trade officials, and economic development experts from across southeastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, and northern Delaware to develop a metro export plan.

This action-oriented guide to export-led growth in Greater Philadelphia was created with support from the Global Cities Initiative, a joint project of the Brookings Institution and JPMorgan Chase that assists metropolitan areas as they develop plans to drive international trade and foreign investment.



Accelerate regional job and revenue growth via a dynamic export economy



1. Increase Greater Philadelphia’s export intensity to match or exceed the average for the top 100 U.S. metros within five years

2. Increase the number of identified new exporting firms in the region by 10 percent within five years

3. Elevate exports as a top-of-mind economic development priority among regional leaders within three years


View the Greater Philadelphia Export Plan Executive Summary here.


The priority strategies at the center of the Greater Philadelphia Export Plan focus on opportunities and needs that emerged from the market assessment: limited awareness of export opportunities or services among small and mid-sized businesses, the existence of regional industry cluster strengths, and the potential for greater collaboration and coordination among export service providers and economic development leaders.

Build Export Awareness & Capacity Among the Region’s Small and Mid-Sized Businesses

Getting exports on the radar of more small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and connecting them to resources to help them become export-ready will spur a virtuous cycle of increased export activity in the region as the density of globally-oriented firms grows. With a strong set of local, state, and federal export assistance services available in our region and a high level of satisfaction among firms that use them, this strategy will focus on raising awareness among SMEs of their export potential and getting more of them engaged with existing export supports. Regional economic development stakeholders will focus on three tactics to advance this strategy:




This tactic will focus on engaging area chambers of commerce and networks of business service providers including banks, law, accounting, consulting, and logistics firms and arming them with information and messaging about export growth opportunities and resources for their clients and members. Resources will also be devoted to engaging county economic development officials, industry associations, and CEO fellowship groups to build on trusted business relationships and influencer networks for SMEs. With limited current marketing and outreach budgets for export service providers, this tactic will help raise overall awareness and increase the pipeline of SMEs considering exporting.




Both firms and export service providers tout the success of mentoring initiatives to help SMEs overcome barriers to exporting. Several successful formal and informal mentoring programs already exist in the region where experienced exporters provide new-to-exporting and new-to-market firms with critical information and connections in promising markets as well as assistance with navigating trade compliance requirements. Additional resources will help to scale these programs, recruit large firms to serve as mentors, and establish more peer-to-peer mentoring forums.




A targeted media messaging campaign will provide a consistent stream of export economy coverage to increase SME and broader leadership community awareness of international trade and export activity in the region. This will include development and dissemination of export case studies across key regional sectors via web and print content as well as videos of local business leaders telling their export success stories.

Catalyze Export Growth in the Region’s Health & Professional Services ClusterS

Greater Philadelphia has a diverse set of goods- and services-producing industry clusters that appear well-positioned for increased export activity. Focusing regional export growth efforts on priority clusters provides an opportunity to more deeply understand and meet the needs of firms within a given industry and target outreach to threshold SMEs that currently do not export but are in a position to do so. Greater Philadelphia’s health cluster—spanning both manufacturing and services—and its professional services cluster are poised to benefit significantly from targeted cluster growth efforts.




As the region’s leading advanced industry cluster, Greater Philadelphia’s health cluster already has a well-developed global footprint. Major pharmaceutical firms in the region contribute $2 billion in annual manufacturing exports, and smaller medical devices and equipment and supplies firms present additional opportunities for export growth. While medical care is usually considered a locally-serving industry, Greater Philadelphia’s high concentration of health care employment and advances in telemedicine have helped to drive medical services exports including international patient care, physician and nurse training, and administration at medical centers abroad. The region’s life sciences R&D strength represents additional potential for export growth, with more than 400 scientific research SMEs in the region. Greater Philadelphia is also home to a concentration of professional service firms serving the health care sector, in particular advertising and architecture firms, that also could be well-positioned for international growth.




The greatest export growth in our region over the last decade has occurred in the services sector, with many of the most competitive and fastest growing industries in professional services. Industries within the professional services cluster—including architecture & engineering, legal services, management & consulting, finance, computer services, and advertising—are dominated by SMEs, many of which have export potential but have yet to explore global markets. Although more than half of all regional export value now comes from services, the export assistance needs of services firms are not as well understood as those of manufacturers. An export-growth initiative focused on professional services will enable the region’s export support ecosystem to develop innovative approaches to grow this critical driver of Greater Philadelphia’s economy.

Strengthen & Enhance Coordination Within Greater Philadelphia’s Export Support Ecosystem

While Greater Philadelphia has a comprehensive set of programs in place to support export growth, area economic development leaders recognize the opportunity to improve international business outcomes via increased collaboration. Building upon the momentum generated over the past year of metro export planning, top economic development and trade officials will work together to establish a new global trade and investment coalition.




This global trade and investment alliance will leverage the engagement and excitement generated in developing Greater Philadelphia’s export plan and play a critical role in driving implementation of plan strategies and actions. The alliance will work to increase alignment across trade and economic development service providers, develop shared resources and messaging, advance advocacy campaigns, share research and market intelligence, and drive plan implementation. In addition to these efforts, the alliance will oversee ongoing awareness-raising about the importance of global trade and investment to the region’s economy and cultivate a broader set of business, civic, and elected official champions for regional export growth.


The alliance’s initial charge will be to advance the stated goal, objectives, and strategies of the metro export plan, with a particular focus on strengthening and enhancing coordination within the region’s export support ecosystem. Recognizing the close relationship between boosting trade and foreign direct investment in the region and the opportunity to engage a broader stakeholder and leadership community, the alliance will expand its efforts over time to focus on both trade and investment.


The Economy League and the World Trade Center of Greater Philadelphia will continue to be the champion organizations for the export plan’s implementation and will act in concert with state and federal export agencies and an array of public and private sector partners. Regional stakeholder organizations will align existing resources and provide in-kind support to advance the plan’s objectives and three priority strategies. Raising additional resources beyond current levels, however, will be required to fully implement the Greater Philadelphia Export Plan.


A three-year campaign will drive measurable results around small business engagement with exports, catalyzing export growth in priority clusters, and strengthening the region’s export support ecosystem. Many implementing organizations will assume lead and supporting roles to advance pieces of the plan, including the World Trade Centers of Greater Philadelphia and Delaware, U.S. Commercial Service, DVIRC, chambers of commerce, business and industry associations, the CEO Council for Growth, and state and local economic development organizations, among many others. The Economy League will incubate the global trade and investment alliance.


Initial implementation efforts will focus on activating business networks to engage small businesses around their export potential and available services, a communications campaign to share export success stories, and the launch of the alliance. The alliance will lead ongoing fundraising efforts and pursue investment and partnership opportunities to support export plan implementation across the three core strategies.



Performance metrics are crucial in gauging the progress of any strategy. In addition to top-level indicators tracking Greater Philadelphia’s export intensity and the number of new exporting firms in the region, success will be measured by increases in:


  • New firms entering the export service system

  • Referrals to export services

  • Firms serving as export mentors

  • Companies participating in trade missions

  • New-to-exporting and new-to-market firms in priority clusters

  • Number of stories and media placements on exports and exporting firms

  • Policy changes that support trade and exporting


Increasing Greater Philadelphia’s export activity requires civic and business leaders to work together to advocate at the local, state and federal levels for policy priorities that will leverage the region’s strengths in the global marketplace. The region has identified a set of recommendations to support the goal and objectives of the Greater Philadelphia Export Plan. Current policy priorities include:

Sustaining and Expanding Support for Export Service Provider Capacity

Federal and state funding for public sector and nonprofit export service providers is critical in building export awareness and capacity among area small businesses. As the export plan aims to increase the number of area businesses entering the export support pipeline, ensuring adequate resources will be necessary to respond to increased demand for services.

Investing in Greater Philadelphia as an Energy Hub

Increased pipeline capacity connecting Greater Philadelphia to the Marcellus Shale could have the dual benefit of attracting new energy-intensive manufacturing industries and reducing costs for manufacturers. If this energy hub vision is realized, pipeline investments could yield new chemical and petrochemical manufacturing export activity, in addition to natural gas shipments.

Increasing Airport Capacity and Direct International Flights

International Flights: Limited direct airline service to major international markets is cited as a barrier to attracting more foreign direct investment and can also negatively impact export activity among services firms that need to fly executives to target markets to build the direct relationships necessary to secure business.

Improving Metro-Level Export Data

While there have been recent improvements in available data as exports has risen as a national priority, Greater Philadelphia and other regions would benefit from more timely and accurate metro-level and service exports data to refine and track progress with their export growth strategies.

Expanding Regional Port Capacity

Completion of dredging of the Delaware River and area port enhancements will enable shipping facilities across the tri-state region to compete with other ports in the Northeast and add new maritime routes.

Easing Access to Foreign Markets 

National policies and investments set the stage for firms to be able to export their goods and services abroad. Key federal policies that can help local firms grow by going global include additional free trade agreements, streamlined regulatory requirements, support for export financing, and stricter intellectual property protection.