Micro Systems, a 17-year-old manufacturer of point-of-sale cash register systems, has demanding customers. The 24-hour-a-day hotels and restaurants around the world that it supplies often need its equipment in a hurry--and they don't have time for excuses.
For Micro Systems, as for so many other businesses, the federal government often provided limited help, at best. A crazy-quilt of trade-related agencies offered some assistance, but none provided the comprehensive assistance that businesses are looking for.
In Baltimore, however, Micro Systems' Peter Rogers has found an unexpected ally in government. The U.S. Export Assistance Center, a one-stop shop of export assistance, has brought together, for the first time in one place, the resources of the Commerce Department, Small Business Administration, and Export-Import Bank. (In this case, the state of Maryland also has contributed resources.)
"To be able to sit down . . . looking at the full menu of services, saves me, as head of marketing, and our sales people a tremendous amount of time," Rogers said. "With time being money, it helps us to get to our job faster, serving the customer." 
As part of the Administration's National Export Strategy, the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee has begun to establish one-stop export centers that bring together the resources of its 19 member agencies. Along with the agencies noted above, they include the Departments of the Treasury, State, Defense, Interior, Agriculture, Labor, Transportation, and Energy; the Office of the United States Trade Representative; the Agency for International Development; and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. Centers are now located in Baltimore, Miami, Chicago, and Long Beach, Calif., and the Administration plans to create more in the next two years.
Its timing is propitious. Never before has trade been so important to the American economy, which remains the world's largest but which must compete more vigorously in an increasingly global marketplace. Every $1 billion more in exports translates into nearly 20,000 new jobs for Americans, says Commerce Secretary Ronald Brown, who chairs the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee. Jobs created by exports pay about 20 percent more than others.