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Small business exports picking up, survey finds

NEW YORK (AP) -- Small business exports are rising as the economy gradually gains strength and companies find trading partners in a new mix of countries, according to a survey released Wednesday.

The survey of 5000 business owners by the National Small Business Association and the Small Business Exporters Association found that 52 percent increased their exports in the past five years, up from 46 percent in 2010, when the survey was last taken and the country was still in the aftermath of the recession.

Small business exports fell during the recession and are still recovering. Many owners refrained from exporting because of concerns about the risks and costs involved with selling overseas. And financing for exports became more difficult to obtain along with other types of business loans.

The trade groups also found that China has grown as an export market for small U.S. businesses in the past three years. It came in at No. 2 on the list of the top markets, up from eighth place in 2010. Canada remains the biggest market for U.S. small business exports, with Britain No. 3, Mexico in fourth place and Australia at No. 5. Germany and France fell out of the top five in the latest survey.

Exports aren't the biggest source of revenue for most small businesses. Fifty-four percent of the survey participants said exports account for less than 10 percent of revenue. Only 12 percent said exports bring in more than half their revenue, and 34 percent said they bring in 10 percent to 50 percent.

The survey also found that small business owners who aren't exporting are getting more interested in selling overseas. A lack of information about exporting was the biggest obstacle to their starting — it was cited by 46 percent of the owners who aren't exporting.