According to the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation, Rhode Island-based businesses exported services, materials and finished goods to 208 foreign markets in 2010. According to the Business Roundtable, an association of top CEOs from America’s largest corporations, more than 133,000 jobs in Rhode Island depend on foreign trade. Most of these jobs, 105,800, were service related, with the state’s economy largely built around the healthcare, financial services and defense industries. Foreign trade-related jobs in the state increased from 9.3 percent in 1992 to 22.2 percent in 2008. The importance of international trade to Rhode Island’s economy is clearly illustrated by the fact that non-trade-related employment rose just 0.3 percent during this same period.
Business students in the state are more often choosing to major in international business, as Rhode Island’s strategic location in the Northeast and its access to international business peer networks supported by the state’s Economic Development Corporation and Export Assistance Center, has made it an ideal environment for international business operations and distribution.
Rhode Island’s International Trade Partners
According to the International Trade Administration, as of 2009 Rhode Island’s top trade partner was Canada. Exports to Rhode Island’s neighbor to the north were responsible for 28 percent of the state’s total merchandise export value that year. Other valuable trade partner nations included Germany, Mexico, Turkey and China.
The International Trade Administration also noted that small and medium-sized companies were responsible for nearly two-thirds, or 64 percent, of total merchandise exports from Rhode Island in 2009. Foreign-controlled companies during this time employed 23,800 people in the state, and the majority of foreign investment, which came in the form of infrastructure expansion and payroll, was provided by multinationals based in the United Kingdom, Netherlands, France and Japan.
International Business Jobs in Rhode Island
Wholesale and retail trade account for the majority of international trade-related jobs in Rhode Island, followed by financial and insurance services, and professional, scientific and technology services, making service exports an extremely important component of the state’s export base. In fact, 105,800 service-related jobs in the state depend on foreign trade. This means international accountants, global managers and management consultants, international marketing specialists and market research analysts, as well as import compliance officers and trade specialists, among others, contribute substantially to Rhode Island’s service exports, and to the state’s economy overall.
An example of Rhode Island’s strong influence on international service-related exports is FM Global, which is headquartered in Johnston. FM Global is Rhode Island’s largest private company and is the world’s largest business property insurer. The company recently completed construction of a 336,000-square-foot, $154-million corporate headquarters business park in the state, showing their commitment to continued growth within Rhode Island.
Textron, headquartered in Providence, has become one of the world’s largest multi-industry companies. This global company generates annual revenues of $10.5 billion, and employs more than 32,000 corporate professionals and workers in over 25 countries.
Hasbro, a multinational toy and board game company, is headquartered in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, and posted revenues of $4.29 billion in 2011, a seven percent increase over 2010.
Other multi-national companies operating in Rhode Island include Brown and Sharpe, the Cookson Group, Deutsche Telecom, National Grid, and Fuji Film, which has its electronic materials division headquartered in North Kingstown.
Rhode Island is also home to operations for a number of foreign-owned companies, including BAE Systems, a United Kingdom-based global defense and security company with more than 100,000 employees worldwide.
Making International Business Contacts in Rhode Island
Rhode Island serves its multinational companies and encourages new business to enter the international market through a number of organizations: