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Metro Exports Driving Economic Growth

September 18, 2012

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Michael Masserman and Ashley Zuelke work in the Office of  Export Policy, Promotion & Strategy.

Here’s a fact:  the 100 largest metro areas in our country make up just 12% of land area – but they make up 65% of our population and 75% of our nation’s GDP.  So when it comes to export growth, it should come as no surprise that metro areas are leading the way.

What may surprise you, is that thirteen smaller metropolitan areas across the U.S. — from Asheville, N.C., to Green Bay, Wisc., to Yakima, Wash. — for the first time joined the club of metropolitan markets that exported more than $1 billion in merchandise to the world.  These metro areas exported U.S. goods such as machinery, transportation equipment, and computer and electronic products which are in great demand all over the world.

The achievement of these thirteen metropolitan areas and recently released national data for 2011 metropolitan exports confirms the historic progress we are making toward reaching the President’s National Export Initiative (NEI) goal of doubling U.S. exports by the end of 2014.

The thirteen first-time members of the $1 billion metro export club represent just one story the recent data tells.

Metropolitan exports increased nearly 40 percent since 2009 to total $1.31 trillion in 2011.

This significant increase in U.S. exports since 2009 contributes to our ongoing recovery from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

The Detroit, Mich., metropolitan area exported $49.4 billion in 2011, registering for the first time above $49 billion since the 2007 pre-Recession level.  Detroit was the fourth largest export market in the U.S. in 2011, with its top export sectors including transportation equipment and machinery. In fact, at the national level, exports of motor vehicles and parts increased $51 billion, or 63 percent, between 2009 and 2011 and are still leading the way with $86.3 billion in exports through the first seven months of 2012– reflecting a vibrant and resurgent car and truck industry.

Los Angeles was the third largest metropolitan export market in 2011, with $72.7 billion in exports.  LA has also been a pilot city for the Metropolitan Export Initiative, a program that the Department of Commerce International Trade Administration has partnered with the Brookings Institute on to localize export policy and promotion efforts, and build a framework for long-term export growth.

These stories, and the ones throughout the country, reflect how metro areas drive our exports. Yet each community and metro has its own character, opportunities and needs.

Communities and metropolitan areas can leverage exports as an economic development tool.  Each metro, even without a structured initiative, has the potential to organize local economic leaders, evaluate its own export assets and potential, and develop a plan to make the most of that potential.  Small businesses need to know that through exporting comes tremendous opportunity, and that there are federal resources in metro areas across our country, such as the local U.S. Export Assistance Centers and Small Business Development Centers, that stand ready to help them with this.

Our Administration will do everything it can to help U.S. businesses succeed in the global marketplace so that next year we can see even more metros cross that $1 billion threshold.

International Trade Administration resources also are there to help. Find your local U.S. Export Assistance Center here and visit Export.gov to get started.

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