SALT LAKE CITY — Utah is garnering high praise for its trade policies that rank the Beehive State as the nation's top foreign exporter.

"Utah's exports, last year, grew 31 percent," said Suresh Kumar, assistant secretary and director general for the U.S. Commercial Service. "That's significantly higher than the national (average for) exports growing 17 percent. Clearly Utah has done something very, very well."

Kumar was in Salt Lake City on Wednesday to meet with Gov. Gary Herbert as well as other business and civic leaders to examine the strategies that Utah has employed that have yielded such successful results in the international trade market.

The export of goods and products from Utah is growing faster than any other state in the country. In fact, during the past five years, Utah is the only state to have doubled its volume of exports.

During his State of the State address, Herbert challenged businesses throughout Utah to double their output of exports from 2009 — with a goal of reaching $20 billion by 2014. Last year, President Barack Obama issued the National Export Initiative calling on U.S. businesses to increase exports at least 15 percent annually — with the similar long-term goal of doubling foreign exports over the same time period.

Utah's export excellence has been a key factor in bolstering the state's economy during what have been challenging times in recent years, and will continue to be important in moving the state forward in the years to come, one local analyst explained.

"Being recognized as the only state in the nation to double its exports over the past five years is another key validation that Utah is becoming more globally focused," said Lew Cramer, president and chief executive officer of the World Trade Center of Utah. "The state of Utah is perfectly poised to double export numbers in the next five years."

Kumar said recent performance reports on Utah foreign trade policies have been "very, very bullish," indicating solid economic strength for the state. He said the state's ability to work together with members of government, business, academia and the private sector for the collective good is also quite admirable and should be commended.

"There is a palpable collaborative spirit here which makes things happen," Kumar said. "We want to feel out what's going right … and share with the governor and his team the priorities for the president and his team … (and) see where we could collaborate and help each other."

Kumar said the U.S. Commercial Service is partnering with Utah as Herbert travels to China on a trade mission next month. He said his agency is encouraging Utah and others states to utilize the resources the U.S. Commercial Service can offer in fostering enhanced relations with current and potential future export partners.

"Because that's the way we create exports for the United States (and) that's the way we double exports, which is the president's goal," he said. "In the case of Utah, expectations (are) that (the state) is going to be more than doubling your exports for the next five years."