VCU, Brookings Institute, $140,000 grant to revive Richmond exports

Matt Leonard
Online Content Editor

Marek Gootman, director of global initiatives at the Brookings Institute, presented on the Richmond’s export potential on Wednesday at the Commonwealth Club. photo courtesy of Michael Ivey

VCU’s Center for Urban and Regional Analysis, with the help of the Brookings Institute and a $140,000 grant from JPMorgan Chase is set to help the Richmond area increase their export potential this year.

The Brookings Institute and JPMorgan Chase began the Global Cities Initiative in 2012 in Los Angeles to help increase exports per capita. This program has how been implemented in cities across the country and VCU’s team will be able to draw from their experience.

“The results are fantastic,” said Nick Klym, a division manager at JPMorgan Chase, of what the company has seen thus far in other cities.

Klym said that global economic trends state the majority of Gross Domestic Product growth is occurring outside of the United States. It is in the best interest, according to Klym, for regions to increase their exports to take advantage of this growth.

Strategies that JPMorgan Chase has suggested to cities in the past include forming export councils, marketing the city internationally, hosting trade shows and trade missions.

In Richmond, the exact plan for increasing exports won’t be fully formated until this summer.

John Accordino, the director of VCU’s Center for Urban and Regional Analysis who is also leading the research leg of the process, said the center will start by working with business and current exporters to see where there is room for improvement.

“By the end of the summer we will have developed, we think, a very clear picture,” Accordino said.

Accordino added that a number of Richmond’s business are currently using an export structure already in place, and he said there would be no need to “reinvent the wheel.”

Marek Gootman, director of global initiatives at the Brookings Institute, said that Richmond is currently “hitting below its population” in export potential. He said this is possibly an effect of the focus on government work in the city.

Gootman added that continued urbanization around the world is something cities can capitalize on to increase exports.

“It’s selling stuff to foreigners and taking their money back to the United States,” Gootman told the audience at the Commonwealth Club.

Currently, Richmond’s annual export growth rate of 2.3 percent ranks 98 out of 100, according to the Brookings Institute. Gootman noted that these numbers were normalized so that Richmond could be accurately compared to cities like New York or Los Angeles.

“The incentives are not in place to focus on exports,” Gootman said. “The incentives are in place to cut a ribbon and say, ‘Here are 200 new jobs.’”

According to Gootman, changing this mentality would have to come as a result from a direct commitment from both the private and public sectors.

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