February 18, 2007
Alaska Journal of Commerce
By: Margaret Bauman
Firms involved in commercial fisheries that have seen a detrimental economic impact in sales, production and employment due to imported seafood may be eligible for federal aid.
The federal Trade Adjustment Assistance program, with a national budget of $13 million, helps commercial fishermen - who can tie their economic woes to increasing imports - to develop a competitive marketing, production and quality-control strategy to compete successfully against imports, says Gary Kuhar of the Trade Task Group in Seattle.
“Over the past five years, we have worked with about 30 firms and have an 80 percent success rate,” he said. “It's a very good program. It returns about $230 to the U.S. Treasury for every dollar spent, in taxes from the firms and their employees.
“We've worked with all sorts of fishermen: salmon fishermen, crab fishermen, the processors of all types of fish,” he said. “Anything that has been hurt by imports.”
Trade Task Group, a private nonprofit firm, serves Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho and Alaska, Kuhar said. The staff helps those in the fishing industry impacted by imports to get approved by the U.S. Department of Commerce for technical assistance.
“We can't give them any money; it is all done through cost-sharing agreements between the consultant and the firm,” Kuhar said. Still, the success stories of the TAA program are growing.
Kuhar said one longtime purse seiner has developed a worldwide market for his canned salmon because the TAA consultant helped him develop the branding identity and a Web site in multiple languages to market the product.
Kuhar said the firm seeking help pays 25 percent to 50 percent of the cost of the consultant, depending on the size of the firm. If the firm's worth is less than $1 million, the federal government will pay 75 percent of the consultant costs, while larger firms pay a higher percentage.
The TAA program has also provided consultants to lumber companies and smaller manufacturers in Alaska, mostly in novelty or tourist items, who have been similarly hit by problems with competitive imports.
For information on the program, call 1-800-667-8087 or log on to www.taacenters.org.
Reprinted with permission