Exporting Metros

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If there’s one thing that people of pretty much every political persuasion agree on, it’s the need to boost exports. This is true not just at the national level, but also the local one. The balance of world population and economic growth is outside the United States. McKinsey estimates that there will be an additional one billion people added to the global “consuming class” by 2025.  An economy focused solely on a domestic American or North American market is missing a huge part of the addressable market, dooming it to slower growth.

Exports have also long been seen as a key part of economic growth in the city. Jane Jacobs noted how cities develop import substitutes. That is, cities develop replacements for goods and services they formerly imported, and subsequently start exporting these to other places. So exporting, both to domestic and to foreign destinations, is critical for cities.

The US Department of Commerce recently released foreign export totals by metropolitan area for 2012. The data series goes back as far as 2005. A number of metro regions are exporting power houses.  There are 31 metro areas that export more than $10 billion in goods and services every year.  Here is the top ten:

Rank

Metro Area

2012

1

Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX

110,297,753,116

2

New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA

102,298,029,869

3

Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA

75,007,521,224

4

Detroit-Warren-Livonia, MI

55,387,305,415

5

Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA

50,301,690,645

6

Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL

47,858,713,857

7

Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, IL-IN-WI

40,567,953,537

8

Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX

27,820,946,540

9

San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA

26,687,656,696

10

Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI

25,155,739,576

Table 1: Dollar Value of Exports, 2012

Unsurprisingly, bigger cities have more exports, but it’s not a perfect correlation. Energy and chemicals intensive Houston ranks #1, and places like #5 Seattle (home to Boeing and Microsoft) and #6 Miami (the hub of Latin American trade) punch above their weight.

But perhaps a better measure of the export intensity of an economy is exports per capita. Here’s a map of US metro areas for that metric:



Map 1: Export dollar value per capita, 2012.

Here are the top ten metros in America among those with a population greater than one million:

Rank

Metro Area

2012

1

New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner, LA

20209.1

2

Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX

17778.0

3

Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA

14160.9

4

San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA

14087.7

5

Salt Lake City, UT

13764.1

6

Detroit-Warren-Livonia, MI

12904.6

7

Cincinnati-Middletown, OH-KY-IN

9312.0

8

Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA

8881.9

9

Memphis, TN-MS-AR

8522.5

10

Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL

8304.9

Table 2: Top Ten Large Metros, Dollar Value of Exports Per Capita, 2012

Here we see that some top exporters like Houston, Seattle, and Miami continue to rank well.  But some smaller metros crack the list like #1 New Orleans (another major petroleum center) and #7 Cincinnati (which has a major GE aircraft engine plant).

And lastly, here’s a look at the growth in total exports from metro areas over the time period for which data is available:



Map 2: Percent change in total exports, 2005-2012.

There was extremely wide variability in the growth rates of exports among metro areas. Here is the top 10 for large metro areas:

Rank

Metro Area

2005

2012

Percent

Change

1

San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX

2,346,954,123

14,010,234,128

496.95%

2

New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner, LA

4,857,754,172

24,359,505,265

401.46%

3

Salt Lake City, UT

3,912,555,433

15,989,999,420

308.68%

4

Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX

41,747,920,224

110,297,753,116

164.20%

5

Las Vegas-Paradise, NV

716,805,170

1,811,480,065

152.72%

6

Birmingham-Hoover, AL

796,241,450

1,939,217,017

143.55%

7

Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV

6,058,364,485

14,609,712,467

141.15%

8

Raleigh-Cary, NC

974,832,168

2,308,052,342

136.76%

9

Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL

20,382,947,257

47,858,713,857

134.80%

10

Providence-New Bedford-Fall River, RI-MA

2,667,670,867

5,830,785,377

118.57%

Table 3: Large metro top ten, Percent change in total exports, 2005-2012.

San Antonio is the champion, but Houston and New Orleans score well again.  A few unexpected metro areas like Birmingham and Providence, traditionally viewed as economic laggards, appear on the list though these are growing admittedly from small bases. What this does show is that even long struggling metros have a major opportunity to improve themselves through focusing on export growth.

While there’s a general nod of approval in the direction of boosting exports, few urban strategies seem to focus on it. Rather, sexier items like subsidized real estate development is generally front and center. But given the positive results even struggling cities like Providence have seen with exports, this type of more basic economic blocking and tackling would seem to be a better place to focus.

Aaron M. Renn is an independent writer on urban affairs and the founder of Telestrian, a data analysis and mapping tool. He writes at The Urbanophile.

Great Lakes Freighter photo by BigStockPhoto.com.



















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ports and exports

I would think if the idea here is to find some things related to increasing exports, we might focus on things which in fact have to do with that. Most of the places listed have not much to do with exporting except to have places where ships can be loaded. New Orleans, Portland Oregon, Miami, and to a great extent, New York and Los Angeles. And some of the Lake ports are in the same category, as are that section of the oil port exports that is not refined at those ports.

The export-increasers related to PORT cities are the folks providing and selling the goods and services, not the docklands.

Generally I never read whole

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