In its report on West Virginia’s trade activity for 2011, the International Trade Administration found that West Virginia’s export shipments that year totaled $9 billion. The West Virginia Department of Commerce Development Division cites a 2010 total of $6.4 billion, illustrating the rapid growth of West Virginia’s international export market. Between 2009 and 2010, total U.S. exports increased 21 percent, while West Virginia’s exports grew by 33 percent over the same period.
This growing export market has gotten the attention of business students in West Virgina who are more frequently choosing to pursue majors related to international business. The expectation for continued growth based on local and national trade administration projections, along with a highly supportive network of trade-promotion organizations in the state indicate unique opportunities exist for professionals in West Virginia who hold degrees specific to international business.
According to figures published by the International Trade Administration, West Virginia has a strong export base in several mining and machinery related industries. The state’s largest export categories in 2011 were:
- Minerals and ores ($5.3 billion)
- Chemicals ($1.6 billion)
- Transportation equipment ($977 million)
- Primary metals ($210 million)
- Nonmetal mineral products ($152 million)
The International Trade Administration reported that 741 companies exported from West Virginia in 2009, which is the last year for which this data is available. Of these, 78 percent were classified as small and medium-sized with fewer than 500 employees. These smaller enterprises were responsible for 27 percent of the state’s total exports in 2009.
The West Virginia Development Office (WVDO) Export Promotion Program helps companies interested in expanding their reach in the global market. The program works with the U.S. Commercial Service and the West Virginia Export Council to help identify potential export markets. This organization also sends trade missions to prominent world markets, sponsors exhibitions at international trade shows and provides logistical support to local companies as they enter new markets.
Because of its size and central location, West Virginia is also part of many multi-state exporting regions. According to the International Trade Administration’s 2011 report, West Virginia’s exports come from many metropolitan areas:
- Charleston is largest metropolitan export area in West Virginia, exporting $1.4 billion in merchandise, accounting for 43.2 percent of the state’s total.
- Washington-Arlington-Alexandria (including the District of Columbia and some parts of Maryland and Virginia), exported $9.2 billion
- Parkersburg-Marietta-Vienna (including part of Ohio), exported $705 million
- Huntington-Ashland (including parts of Kentucky and Ohio), exported $323 million
- Hagerstown-Martinsburg (including part of Maryland), exported $225 million
- Winchester (including part of Virginia), exported $169 million
- Weirton-Steubenville (including part of Ohio), exported $110 million
West Virginia’s International Trade Partners
West Virginia’s largest export market is Canada. According to the International Trade Administration, in 2011 the state exported $1.5 billion in finished goods and raw materials to Canada, which accounted for 17 percent of total merchandise exports for the state that year. West Virginia’s other leading trade partners include:
- Brazil ($695 million)
- The Netherlands ($689 million)
- India ($644 million)
- and Italy ($614 million).
International Business Jobs in West Virginia
According to the International Trade Administration, 22,700 West Virginia workers and corporate professionals were employed by foreign-controlled companies in 2009, the most recent year for which data is available. The leading foreign employers are based in the United Kingdom, France, Japan and Germany. Foreign-owned multinationals from these countries were responsible for 4 percent of West Virginia’s total private sector employment in 2009.
The International Trade Administration states that export-supported manufacturing jobs in West Virginia provide about 3.1 percent of the total private-sector employment. In 2009, 18.1 percent of the state’s manufacturing workers depended on international exports for their jobs.
West Virginia’s top exporting companies, and leading employers of international business professionals include:
- Alliance Coal
- Alpha Natural Resources
- Oxford Mining Company
- Starvaggi Industries
- The Library Corporation
- Royal Vendors
Companies with powerful export operations like these rely on a specialized staff of international business experts to manage and support their international trade divisions. International business managers create business plans, working with international business consultants who help them navigate the logistical, legal and cultural challenges of entering foreign markets; along with marketing managers and market research analysts who help create market entry strategies. Custom brokers, trade specialists, import/export compliance officers, as well as supply chain and logistics managers all help to make certain that the products these companies produce reach wholesale buyers in foreign markets.
Making International Business Contacts in West Virginia
West Virginia offers a number of resources for those seeking information about international business opportunities in the state: