Toledo rebound ‘phenomenal’

Metro area among dozen in U.S. poised to double exports by 2014 — ranks 9th out of 100

Aerial of downtown Toledo, Maumee River,  Port Authority docks.
Aerial of downtown Toledo, Maumee River, Port Authority docks.

Greater Toledo is among just a dozen of the 100 biggest metro areas in the United States that is on track to double its exports between 2009 and 2014, a key goal set by the Obama Administration as a way to boost international trade.

In a new report issued by the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based nonprofit think tank devoted to research and policy solutions, the Toledo area ranks ninth out of 100 in export growth with an average growth rate (adjusted for inflation) of 12.4 percent from 2009 through 2012.

From 2003 to 2008, the annualized export growth rate was just 5.6 percent, with metro Toledo ranking 78th out of 100 metro areas.

“It a pretty phenomenal success story. Toledo definitely emerged well from the recession on practically every [exports] indicators that we look at,” said Ryan Donahue, a Brookings researcher and one of three authors of the report titled Export Nation 2013: U.S. Growth Post-Recession.

According to Brookings, metro Toledo’s total output of goods and services grew by just 2.4 percent from 2009 to 2012. However, export growth over that same period was 12.4 percent.

The National Export Initiative was a trade strategy created by the Obama Administration in 2010 that has the goal of doubling U.S. exports by the end of 2014. The initiative, aims to create two million domestic jobs through increased cooperation in export promotion.

The U.S. growth rate in exports has been 11.9 percent per year since the NEI was created, but only 25 metro areas have surpassed that figure, Brookings said.

Toledo not only is among the 25, it is among the 12 areas that is expected to double its exports by the end of 2014.

Its average annual growth rate for exports was 18.5 percent from 2009-2012. That rate was surpassed only by eight other metro areas — Youngstown (27.4), New Orleans (27.3), Baton Rouge (23.6), Detroit (23.3), Salt Lake City (21.2), Ogden, Utah (20.7), and Houston (20.1).

No other Ohio cities were among the twelve.

In terms of total exports, the Toledo area’s $5.5 billion in 2012 place it 58th out of 100.

The exports represented 18.9 percent of the area’s overall output of goods and services, good for 14th place out of the top 100.

Some metro areas, such as Detroit and Youngstown, saw their economies fall significantly during the recession, helping their export growth look significant.

But Mr. Donahue said that wasn’t the case with the Toledo area.

“Yes, to some extent, Toledo’s exports fell 16 percent in 2009,” he said. “But that’s not a totally remarkable figure.

“Toledo did have a tough 2009 and that’s part of its story, and the growth in 2010 was 22 percent and that’s part of the bounce back. But it’s done far more than just return to its prerecession levels,” Mr. Donahue said.

“What we’re looking at is the mix of industries Toledo has and how much those industries are in demand internationally,” he said. “The growth in exports is definitely related to the industrial base and the large global economic dynamics.”

There is a widening gap between domestic and international demand for goods and services.

“We project that future growth will happen outside of the U.S., so any metro area that has a set of industries that’s well-positioned in terms of global markets is well-positioned [for export growth] because the global demand is going to be huge,” Mr. Donahue said.

While Toledo’s total area exports were $5.5 billion, five categories of exports accounted for $4.7 billion of that total.

Petroleum and coal product exports totaled $1.3 billion, or 23.5 percent of all area exports. Motor vehicles totaled $853 million, or 15.5 percent, while motor vehicle parts totaled $520 million, or 9.4 percent.

Glass products totaled $148 million, or 2.7 percent, and basic chemical totaled $115 million, or 2.1 percent.

Brookings plans to update the report annually over the next four years.

It says exports offer the quickest route to economic recovery and growth, with international trade via emerging markets like India and China offering U.S. metro areas a strong opportunity to market their goods and services.

Mr. Donohue said metro Toledo is in an outstanding position to benefit from international markets, like China, because it produces a lot of the goods that emerging markets need.

“One of the things we are hoping to inspire is the reverse investment and have places like Toledo going to China to do business. We are hoping to inspire those kind of exchanges,” Mr. Donahue said. “Your industrial base is favorable to those kind of exchanges.”

Contact Jon Chavez at: or 419-724-6128.