Greater New Orleans ranks #2 in the USA in export growth, at over 400% since 2005


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

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:

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

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:

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%

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.

Read the full article here: http://www.newgeography.com/content/003984-exporting-metros