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Published: Thursday, 3/8/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Toledo-area's exports to double by 2015

Brookings Institution ranks region 3rd in U.S. in growth

BY TYREL LINKHORN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

A report that examines American exports since the start of the economic recovery says metro Toledo has one of the fastest-growing export markets in the nation.

According to the Brookings Institution report, which is being released Thursday, the value of exports shipped out of metro Toledo increased 17 percent in 2009 and 2010. Among the nation's 100-largest metros, that's third-best. The 15 percent share of exports as a portion of metro Toledo's gross domestic product was 10th-best.

The authors expect the area to double its 2010 exports by 2015. Only 10 other metro areas are on such a growth path.

"Metropolitan areas that are engaged with Canada or Germany or Saudi Arabia or Asia have gotten an important boost that other regions haven't gotten, and your solid growth in 2009 and 2010, and the high share of your economy that's engaged in exports, really bode well for a healthier future," said Mark Muro, senior fellow and policy director with the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings.

Having strong business in growing economies elsewhere in the world puts less reliance on the home economy, which continues growing slowly, Mr. Muro said.

Brookings said Toledo-area exports totaled $4.1 billion, contributed more than 11,000 direct export production jobs, and supported a total of 26,000 jobs in 2010.

"That right there signifies the importance, plus what the events of the past few years have shown," said Paul Zito, vice president of international development with the Regional Growth Partnership. "Some people have called it export or die, as markets have dwindled for manufacturers in the U.S. The companies that have survived have been the ones that have been exporting."

The partnership and Mr. Zito are involved in several initiatives to bring international investment to Toledo and to help existing companies better prepare themselves to enter or compete in the global trade market.

Like most good news on the recovery in Toledo, there's a strong tie to manufacturing, especially within the auto industry. Transportation equipment was the No. 1 export industry in 2010, according to Brookings, at $970 million -- about 24 percent of the total dollar value. But experts say the overall gains have many sectors to thank.

"Stabilization and growth of the auto sector has been critical, but many of the industries you're in have been growing globally," Mr. Muro said, highlighting petroleum and coal products, the second-largest export industry at $730 million.

There were also sizable contributions from the chemical, travel and tourism, and machinery industries in 2010. Data for 2011 are not yet available, officials said.

Mr. Zito, who was not affiliated with the Brookings report but has done his own study on the topic, also believes the diversity of Toledo's economy and manufacturing base have led to the gains.

"If you look at other regions of the U.S., historically they've been too entrenched in one or very few industries, or they've been promoting only one sector. … Toledo is an old town, and has a great diversity of industry and manufacturing expertise," he said.

Metro Toledo encompasses Lucas, Fulton, Wood, and Ottawa counties,

Nationally, Brookings said exports grew faster in 2010 than in any year since 1997. The report also said the total number of export-supported jobs in the United States increased 6 percent, even as the economy as a whole was still losing jobs.

Though Canada and Mexico remain the largest two export markets for the United States, Brookings said the recession accelerated U.S. exports into developing economies, specifically Brazil, India, and China.

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at: tlinkhorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.



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