While Boeing, Amazon and Microsoft are the engines running Washington's economy, small and medium-sized enterprises such as Hannah's eight-person food company are providing the fuel. More than 90 percent of Washington's 8,500 companies that export products worldwide are businesses with fewer than 500 employees. In fact, small and medium-sized businesses generated one-fifth of Washington's $46.6 billion in exports in 2010—helping make the state the fourth-largest exporter in the U.S., and third-largest in agriculture. Among the 50 states, Washington realized the second-highest dollar growth in exports between 2005 and 2009, with exports increasing by $18.7 billion.
New exporting strategies are being carried out by dozens of government-sponsored agencies, and have turned state and federal trade experts into matchmakers, hand-holders and support group leaders. They help businesses, particularly small and medium-sized companies, locate, set up shop and win new markets overseas by providing export financing, counseling on foreign markets, lobbying expertise to overcome trade barriers and funding for new export-promotion programs. Government agencies also enlist the private sector's help and create partnerships to help facilitate exporting.