A federal program that was piloted in Fargo is set to expand to include rural areas throughout the nation. The program compiles in-depth market research to help rural companies export their products, with one Grand Forks company attempting to benefit from the research.

The Rural America’s Intelligence Service for Exporters program, or RAISE, will expand its operations after receiving $500,000 in additional funding. The program takes advantage of intelligence gathered by U.S. Commercial Service, the promotion arm of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration. Some of the data comes from U.S. embassies and consulates across the globe and can be used to help rural companies identify potential distributors for their products.

The funding was secured by Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., who included the funding in the U.S. Senate’s Commerce, Justice and Science appropriation budget for fiscal year 2020.

“This legislation is all about helping rural businesses to access international markets and export their products,” Hoeven told the Herald through email. “The Rural Export Center will provide rural companies with the resources and tools they need to compete in today’s global economy. The funding we were able to include through appropriations will help to grow rural economies and create jobs in local communities.”

Grand Forks-based PS Industries Inc., located in the industrial park, used the U.S. Commercial Service’s Fargo office for information on European countries, as it goes through the process of introducing a new fall-restraint safety device into the European Union.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live

“We did a couple of different programs where we did the initial market research,” said Mark Haaland, sales and marketing director for PS Industries. “Then we did some further in-country after that market research.”

The company has not sold its new safety product in Europe yet, and the process is ongoing, though Haaland noted there is international interest in his company’s fall restraint.

Haaland said the information provided by the U.S. Commercial Service was “very beneficial,” and he would consider using the office again for international market research.

The Commercial Service office in Fargo covers all of North Dakota and nine counties in northwest Minnesota. According to the office’s website at export.gov, it has been involved with hundreds of export transactions for rural companies resulting in millions of dollars in new sales. This service is set to expand to include all of rural United States.

The North Dakota District Export Council is a nonprofit group made up of exporters in the state. The group has supported the efforts to expand this program, according to Thomas Shorma, chairman.

“With this program, once it gets running, they could be a rural company in a small city in Kansas, and they would literally call the office in Fargo, North Dakota, and say, ‘Hey, I'm looking to expand my product or service. Can you tell me which countries I should be targeting and why?’” Shorma told the Herald.

The service is not free. Companies interested in accessing market research data and export guidance need to pay a fee, which will be used to fund the office’s operations.

“It's a much smaller fee than what they would ever hope to see from the private sector,” Shorma said.

Rural companies looking for assistance in exporting their products can contact the U.S. Commercial Service’s office in Fargo at (701) 552-0792, or visit the website at https://2016.export.gov/northdakota/.