NEW ORLEANS – United States Senator Mary Landrieu, D-La., Chair of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, held a hearing in New Orleans, La., yesterday on improving trade opportunities for Main Street businesses. U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, Small Business Administrator Karen Mills, Export-Import Bank Chairman Fred Hochberg and Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration Patty Sefcik testified at the hearing, along with local witnesses.

As small businesses find their domestic market increasingly tapped out because of the recession , exporting has become a practical solution for small firms looking to survive and grow.

“Expanding opportunities for small business trade is vital to the financial wellbeing of our entrepreneurs and all Americans during these tough economic times,” Sen. Landrieu said.

Small businesses already play a vital role in America’s international commerce, representing about 97 percent of all exporters. But while most of our exporters are small businesses, most of our small businesses are not exporting. Only one percent of small firms are exporting and small businesses just make up a quarter of the country’s export volume – showing that trade remains dominated by larger businesses. The hearing aimed to explore ways to remove the barriers entrepreneurs face when exporting.

“Although Louisiana's economy isn't fairing as bad as other parts of the country, our Main Street businesses here and throughout the nation need help. Making small business trade a top priority may be an answer to some of our problems,” Sen. Landrieu said. “With more advocacy and better coordination among agencies, small businesses can lead us out of this recession by creating new and higher-paying jobs and lessening the trade deficit. Our entrepreneurs can go one step further. By entering into trade, they will make our nation better able to compete in the global marketplace.”

Louisiana is the seventh largest exporting state in the country and is home to five of the country’s top 13 ports, exporting more than $42 billion in goods last year alone.

The hearing follows Sen. Landrieu’s introduction of the “Small Business International Trade Enhancements Act of 2009” in June.

Sen. Landrieu’s statement and witness testimony are available online here.