The Great Recession reset the world economic map. Suddenly, with the bulk of the world’s economic growth transferred beyond the borders of a recession-mired West and into emerging markets, American metropolitan areas and the nation as a whole were left to cast about for new sources of growth.
Such a search for growth is why, in the months after the crash, a chorus of business leaders and economists called for a new emphasis on exports in a “rebalanced” American economy. It is why, too, that President Obama—recognizing the power of exports to help reorient the American economy after the recession—launched the National Export Initiative (NEI) in March 2010, with the goal of doubling exports by the end of 2014. And it is also why the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings published in summer 2010 the initial edition of “Export Nation”—a first-of-its-kind analysis of both goods and services exports at the metropolitan level in the United States during the period from 2003 to 2008. That report provided a new “bottom-up” view of the U.S. export enterprise as well as a new view of how individual regions link to other nations.
This second edition of “Export Nation” updates and builds upon the results of the first analysis to examine changes across the metropolitan export landscape in 2010, the first year of the nation’s economic recovery.
It also extends its predecessor’s tracking of export growth, export-supported jobs growth, and industry trends, and it documents the rapid growth of emerging markets among U.S. export destinations.
As the last two years have been active ones on the export front—federally and at the state and metropolitan level— the present report also furnishes the opportunity for an update on the nation’s expanding policy and economic development engagement with exporting.
Most notably, the Obama administration is now deeply involved in implementing the NEI especially on trade and export promotion activities. Through the new State Trade and Export Promotion Program (STEP), the federal government provided additional support to the states in their efforts to increase exports. The planned consolidation of six federal departments and agencies could help further reorganize and better maximize the federal effort on exports. Congress also passed free trade agreements (FTAs) with Korea, Colombia, and Panama in 2011.
In response to the NEI, four metropolitan areas (Los Angeles; Minneapolis-Saint Paul; Portland, OR; and Syracuse) moved to develop their own Metropolitan Export Initiatives (MEIs) in 2011, with the support of the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program. These initiatives are something new: ground-up collaborative efforts by regional business, civic, and political leaders to create and implement strategic plans for boosting exports in U.S. regions. For its part, the U.S. Conference of Mayors recently issued a special metro export challenge, which will likely ignite the creation of dozens of additional MEIs around the country.
Increasingly, it is being recognized that exporting is in large part a metropolitan enterprise and that focused, effective export promotion initiatives in U.S. metropolitan areas provide an important tool for delivering on the NEI, given that metropolitan areas in the United States delivered some 84 percent of the nation’s exports in 2010.
Along those lines, the report for the first time analyzes the role of metropolitan areas in state exports. Further, “Export Nation 2012” extends the geographical and industrial detail of the earlier metropolitan export estimates, providing fine-grained metro-scaled descriptions of the size, growthrates, industrial composition, and employment of the export sector in 2010. Accompanying the trend data analysis, meanwhile, this second edition of “Export Nation” provides a series of policy recommendations on how to ensure that the NEI supports and makes the best use of the metro initiatives.
A few notes are in order, finally, about the timeliness and comparability of the new information. First, it bears noting that this study reflects a one-year lag in metropolitan exports estimates. This is because the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis will issue the full dataset of 2011 U.S. exports, including data on exports of goods and services by trading partner (the International Transactions), after the release of this report. It should be noted also that the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis will release estimates of 2011 U.S. export services such as education, financial services, and business services in October 2012. Second, while this report offers an “update” on the earlier report, the 2008 estimates and largest 100 metro rankings from the first edition of “Export Nation” are not comparable with the 2008 export estimates and rankings provided in this study. This owes to the fact that during the last two years some of the primary data sources used in this study—including the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) and Moody’s Analytics—revised their historical estimates. In 2011, at the subnational level BEA changed its methodology for estimating service exports, which affects the estimates of service export categories. In addition, this study improved on the estimation of three service exports (education, royalties, and travel and tourism), which combined with the BEA revised service export estimates, render unfeasible the comparison of service exports data with the previous edition. Last, this study changes the methodology for estimating export jobs.
In any event, the data and discussion presented here should provide useful information for all of those engaged in the nature and expansion of the nation’s U.S. export enterprise. The results from the second edition of “Export Nation” can assist metropolitan leaders, media, and the public to better understand the export sector in metropolitan areas and the states, and help to build a knowledge base to better tap foreign demand for goods and services.
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