ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) -- The chairman and chief executive of 3M Co. said Tuesday the tape and Post-it maker will aim to get more growth in the U.S. even as the economy slows down.
George Buckley said 3M will try harder to differentiate its products from competitors, innovate more and improve service to squeeze growth out of its U.S. markets.
''The U.S. is by far the largest single market for us,'' Buckley said at 3M's annual meeting.
''And so it's obvious that for 3M to meet its long-term growth aspirations, the U.S. business has to also grow faster.''
In 2007, 3M's U.S. sales grew 2 percent, but only because of acquisitions.
Buckley acknowledged that the task will not be easy given the state of the economy in the U.S., where consumers are being hit by high fuel and food costs, and a credit crisis has roiled financial markets.
''It's increasingly clear to all of us that driving growth in the United States will continue to be challenging in the near term,'' he said.
3M is a diversified manufacturer that makes Scotch tape, furnace filters, Post-it notes, and powerlines.
Recently Buckley has been emphasizing 3M's overseas growth. Last year 63 percent of its sales came from outside the U.S., and Buckley said that could be 70 percent by 2010.
In addition, 30 percent of 3M sales last year, or $7 billion, came from emerging markets where 3M sales are growing nearly 20 percent a year, Buckley said.
3M has also been expanding in identity security, including sophisticated ID cards. Buckley announced on Tuesday that 3M had won a pilot program to supply new high-end identity cards to the British government, subject to final approval of a contract.
''This is a huge new growth area for the security world at large, and consequently of growth for 3M too,'' he said.
3M shares fell 49 cents to $77.18 Tuesday. They're off almost 10 percent from their closing price after 3M's last annual meeting on May 8, 2007.