Boosted by a significant increase in transportation equipment, metropolitan Toledo’s exports rose 12 percent to a record $2.7 billion in 2012, the U.S. Department of Commerce said this week.
Officials said exports of transportation equipment, a broad category that includes things such as automotive parts and motor vehicles, jumped 44 percent from 2011 to 2012, to $573 million.
The segment accounted for more than 20 percent of the total value of metro Toledo’s exports.
Other significant export categories were agricultural products, machinery manufacturing, and nonmetallic mineral products, a category that includes things such as glass.
“If you look at the product sectors they mentioned as the key exports, those are the traditional product sectors that have thrived in the Toledo area for decades,” said Paul Zito, vice president of international development at the Regional Growth Partnership.
Government data doesn’t show total value of exports in each category, but officials said the metro area’s exports grew by about $300 million from 2011 to 2012.
Metro Toledo ranked sixth among Ohio’s metro areas in total export value, accounting for 5.3 percent of the state’s total exports. Metro Cincinnati ranked No. 1 at nearly $20 billion.
Only metro Columbus, which grew its exports by about 26 percent, had stronger growth than Toledo.
Looking at the data in broad terms, Mr. Zito said it’s a good key indicator the economy is getting better.
“If you look at exporting prior to the great recession in the Toledo area and elsewhere in the Midwest, exports were increasing at a great rate. The recession kind of put a kink in that,” Mr. Zito said. “This is a good indication that not only are exports doing well in the Toledo area, but the economy as a whole. Companies are able to invest more in manufacturing equipment and other capital expenditures that allow them to produce more and sell more, whether it’s in the U.S. or around the world.”
Commerce Department data shows metro Toledo’s exports grew from $1.8 billion in 2005 to $2.6 billion in 2008. However, the recession cut that sharply, with exports falling to $1.4 billion in 2009. Exports have gone up every year since.
The Commerce Department’s figures are reported in real dollars and are not adjusted for inflation.
But while exports fell during the recession, trade experts say it was still important for many companies.
“The companies that did well throughout the economic downturn were the companies that were exporting,” said Sue Whitney, director of the U.S. Export Assistance Center in Cleveland.
While not without risks, being diversified in emerging economies like Brazil and China proved valuable for many companies.
Overall, U.S. exports totaled a record $2.2 trillion in 2012, up nearly 5 percent from 2011. The government said exports supported nearly 10 million jobs last year.
Houston took over the top spot on the 2012 list, with total exports of $110 billion. Metro New York City fell to second at $102 billion. Toledo ranked 79th.
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