U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke says President Barack Obama's National Export Initiative is paying off, but there is still plenty of room for improvement.

Locke spoke Friday to about 600 business leaders at the St. Louis World Trade Center's annual "Growing Global" luncheon.

Locke says U.S. exports are up 18 percent this year over the same period from a year ago. Missouri is doing even better, with exports in the first half of 2010 up 35 percent from the same period in 2009.

Still, Locke says only 1 percent of U.S. firms export goods overseas.

Obama announced the export initiative during his State of the Union speech earlier this year. The goal is to double exports over five years.