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Commerce Department’s Hilda Lockhart retires after 24 years of helping Alabama firms go global

Hilda Lockhart, an international business expert who helped many Alabama companies explore new markets and opportunities around the globe, is retiring from the Alabama Department of Commerce.

For the past 24 years, Lockhart has been director of the Office of International Trade, which is responsible for the state’s trade promotion and development efforts to sell Alabama-made products and services throughout the world and to create jobs for Alabama residents. Her last day at the Commerce Department was Jan. 31.

During her tenure, Lockhart coordinated trade missions involving Alabama companies that traveled to 51 nations, logging more than 1 million miles during her career.

Wilbur Ross, while U.S. secretary of Commerce, presented Lockhart and Beau Lore with a President’s E Award for the Alabama Department of Commerce in 2018. (U.S. Commerce Department)

“Hilda has been a tireless champion for Alabama entrepreneurs and business owners who dreamed of finding new, overseas markets for their products and building connections with potential partners around the globe,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce. “Over the years, her service to the state’s business community has been downright remarkable.”

Gov. Kay Ivey praised Lockhart for contributions to expanding exports, which has created jobs and boosted many businesses across Alabama. Over the past two decades, Alabama exports have nearly tripled in value, averaging around $20 billion annually.

In 2018, the Commerce Department received the President’s “E” Award for Export Service, the highest recognition an organization can receive for contributing to the expansion of U.S. exports.

“Alabama business owners looking to navigate new export opportunities have long known who they could depend on for assistance – and that’s Hilda,” Ivey said. “She will be missed, but I know she has steered us on a course that will continue to help Alabama businesses with these endeavors.”

Lockhart, center, coordinated trade missions to 51 nations for Alabama companies during her 24 years with the Alabama Department of Commerce. During her tenure, Alabama exports nearly tripled in value, averaging around $20 billion annually. (contributed)

‘Best job in the state’

Lockhart, who joined the department in 1998, said the most rewarding part of her job was working with small businesses across the state and seeing them excel at marketing their products overseas.

“It takes a lot of commitment to step into a foreign country and meet with people that sometimes don’t even speak English. But we tried to make that easy for them,” she said.

Lockhart said Alabama’s trade team and the Export Alabama Alliance have benefited from a close collaboration with state and federal agencies, while enjoying steadfast support from the state’s leadership throughout the years.

“My career with the state of Alabama has spanned almost 24 years,” Lockhart said. “What a great way to learn more about our world from so many realms, including different cultures and making new friends. Everybody always said I had the best job in the state, and as I look back, I agree entirely.

“I’ve been so fortunate to have served under some of Alabama’s most extraordinary leaders who understood the importance of international trade. That doesn’t happen in every state. I can only thank them for believing in our trade program that helped small and medium-sized companies grow their global footprints,” she said.

Before joining the department, Lockhart was executive director of the Japan-America Society of Georgia for five years and manager of international trade at the Florida Department of Commerce for 16 years.

This story originally appeared on the Alabama Department of Commerce’s Made in Alabama website.