Michael Masserman is the Executive Director for Export Policy, Promotion & Strategy at the International Trade Administration and is also a proud alumnus of the University of Michigan – #goblue.
There’s excitement in the air on campuses in towns like Huntsville, Ala.; Boulder, Colo.; Bloomington, Ind.; and Ann Arbor, Mich., because college football season has kicked off.
But those cities have more in common than just enthusiasm for college football; they’re all among the metropolitan areas that surpassed the $1 billion mark in goods exports last year.
That’s right, $1 billion.
Ann Arbor, a city that has generated more than $1 billion in annual exports for a number of years and home to the University of Michigan, is harnessing its innovative spirit to expand globally in sectors from transportation equipment to electronics products.
It’s home to companies like Mechanical Simulation Corporation, which produces software to simulate the dynamic response of vehicles to inputs from the driver and environmental conditions. The company is the result of early research at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. They’re now selling their products to manufacturers and suppliers from Sao Paulo to Seoul.
Ann Arbor has been able to attract investment from overseas firms like Toyota and Hyundai, which now have their U.S. research and development facilities in the region. The area is also home to Liebherr-Aerospace, a German company that, among other things, re-builds engines for Embraer, a Brazilian aerospace company.
With Ann Arbor linking business between Munich and Rio de Janeiro, it is building a foundation for sustainable economic growth here and abroad. These city-to-city connections are how global commerce is now done. Instead of trading spices and coffee, the 21st century “silk road” is about cross-border data flows, global supply chains, and accessing products and services via smartphones, where you can now buy your coffee and spices from anywhere in the world at the click of a button.
The universities in these communities played a huge role in these export numbers even though services exports like education aren’t included in this number. Foreign students studying in the United States accounted for nearly $23 billion in exports nationwide in 2012.
Universities like Michigan, which has more than 6,300 international students, are forging the next generation of globally minded U.S. business owners. They also expose foreign students to American culture and business practices. Some of these students could return to their home country and become the next big investors in the United States. Understanding the relationship between exports and investment in the United States is the holistic approach we need for our cities – and our nation – to succeed.
Every U.S. city has the opportunity to engage in the global marketplace, and we’re proud to partner with the Brookings Institution on the Metropolitan Export Initiative to support globally minded cities. Local leaders just have to be deliberate and strategic about prospects, seize the moment at hand, and get in the game.