Export Development Needs: The Importance of Networking To Small and Medium-Sized Manufacturing Exporters In Alabama

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science, International Development, and International Affairs

First Advisor

Robert Pauly

Advisor Department

Political Science, International Development, and International Affairs


This research examines the importance of networking to small and medium-sized exporting manufacturers (SMEs) in the state of Alabama. SMEs, defined as a company with 500 or fewer employees, make up the majority of the companies that export from Alabama. Although exporting companies with over 500 employees claim more revenue for the state in dollars, SMEs are an important driving force of Alabama's economy as they provide 80% of all new jobs in Alabama. Two additional focal points of this research are the importance of networking as it relates to employee growth at a company, and its correlation to the length of time a manufacturer has been exporting. The findings imply that, as part of the larger picture of economic development, networking may be a trivial contributor to an SMEs success. However, economic developers may be able to determine specific subsets of exporters that could benefit from networking activities to encourage exporting. The potential for growth lies in the fact that: (1) half of SMEs in Alabama export to only one country and (2) only half of SMEs in Alabama have export sales that make up more than 5% of their overall sales. These data indicate great opportunity for export revenue growth with a potential for an increase in jobs. By defining networking and demonstrating its importance to exporters, this research will enable Alabama's economic developers, government officials, and organizations interested in export promotion to better understand its impact on economic growth. Other southern states as well as Alabama may benefit from this research, as it outlines a foundation upon which to create successful export promotion strategies. Recommendations are provided on enhancing export promotion efforts to boost state economy.