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Global Economy

Exporting the Future

By Jayna Phinney
Communications and Marketing

An increase in local businesses exporting globally and the projected growth of Mexico’s economy could position Angelo State and San Angelo to be models for helping guide the U.S. economy out of its current recession.

Angelo State alum Chris Whatley shared that hopeful message as the keynote speaker for ASU’s 13th annual International Business Symposium in November.

A 1991 ASU graduate, Whatley is the Washington office director for the Council of State Governments (CSG), the oldest and largest association of state-elected officials in the U.S. In that capacity, he is responsible for overseeing the CSG’s federal advocacy and international outreach.

Fifty years ago, the U.S. drove the world’s economy, but China surpassed the U.S. in total economic growth in 2007.…the future of the U.S. economy lies in anticipating and reacting to change.

“I’m in the business of looking at international events and their impact on local economies,” Whatley said.

His presentation, sponsored by the ASU Center for International Studies, the Small Business Development Center and Rodgers Capital Inc., was one of several events the university held in honor of International Education Week, which celebrates the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide.

In 2010, exports generated more than half of U.S. economic growth, and Whatley stressed that more businesses need to stay competitive by changing their mindset and thinking globally. While exporting has often been the territory of large companies, it has become more viable for smaller businesses in today’s global economy. Resources such as the ASU Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and its International Trade Office can help business owners test for export readiness. If a product does generate export interest, several other government resources are available to help businesses capitalize on the international market.

Reflecting on a memory from his childhood as a military brat growing up in Berlin, Whatley pointed to the fall of the Berlin Wall on Nov. 9, 1989, as the removal of a “mountain divide” and the moment competition for business moved from local and regional to worldwide.

“In a wired world, anything that can be outsourced will,” Whatley said.

Fifty years ago, the U.S. drove the world’s economy, but China surpassed the U.S. in total economic growth in 2007. To Whatley, the future of the U.S. economy lies in anticipating and reacting to change.

“We live in a hyper-connected world with new players and dynamics,” he said.

While a major U.S. secret for success has been making good investments, this country now faces major problems because of the national debt. Even with 70 percent of the country’s economy based on consumption, Whatley said that, in itself, is not enough to diminish the effects of recession.

“We now can’t expect consumer demand to pull us out of this ditch,” he said.

To supplement internal consumption, the U.S. National Export Initiative has set a goal to have $3 trillion generated in 2015 from exports.

On a less hopeful note, Whatley speculated that the military will resume the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process in 2015, and San Angelo’s Goodfellow Air Force Base could once again be on the chopping block. One potential strike against Goodfellow is that the region may be facing a water shortage at that time. However, by then San Angelo may have reaped a few new benefits that could help the city save its largest employer.

One prime benefit could be the projections that by the year 2020, Mexico will have broken into the top 10 largest world economies. If that happens, San Angelo would be poised to anchor the Ports-to-Plains corridor, which Whatley said will be one of the most important trade routes in the world.

However, the strength of San Angelo’s location will also rely on the nation’s ability to grow its exporting trade. At least locally, the Angelo State SBDC will be poised to help that along.

Chris Whatley


Bachelor’s, Angelo State University, 1991; Master’s, Georgetown University

Office director, Council of State Governments

Featured as the keynote speaker at ASU’s 13th annual International Business Symposium in November. His presentation was titled “From Global to Local: How Changes in the World Economy Will Shape the Future for Commodities, States and Students.”

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