The Tampa Bay area’s exports are rising just under 5 percent a year lately, but that’s only good for 70th place among America’s 100 biggest metropolitan areas, a new report from the Brookings Institution says.
Brookings on Tuesday released a report on the fastest growing export markets before and after the recent recession. The Washington-based think tank argues that exports are more important than ever, with 85 percent of economic growth expected to come from outside the United States.
Local leaders led by an economic development group called the Tampa Bay Partnership are working with Brookings to develop an overall export strategy for the region.
For now, though, the region seems to be underperforming. According to Brookings, exports in the Bay area were rising at a fairly strong rate of 8.8 percent per year in the pre-recession years of 2003 to 2008. But in the years between 2009 and 2012, that growth slowed to 4.8 percent, which is in the bottom third of the 100 biggest metro areas, Brookings said.
By comparison, the nation’s exports overall grew by 11.9 percent annually from 2009 to 2012.
The areas with the fastest-growing exports tend to be heavy in manufacturing and energy, especially petroleum, said Brad McDearman, one of the study’s authors.
For example, the manufacturing centers of Youngstown, Ohio, and Detroit led the nation in export growth from 2009 to 2012, with annual growth rates of 22.2 percent and 20.4 percent, respectively. However, their stellar growth was partly because they had such giant drop-offs in exports before the recession, Brookings noted. The biggest real increase, then, was New Orleans, which has seen annual growth of 17.1 percent because of its petroleum/coal industry.
The Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area is less concentrated in any single industry, which helps when times are bad, but hurts when certain industries surge, McDearman said. Overall, the Bay area had about $9.8 billion in exports last year, almost evenly divided between services and goods.
The leading product exported from the Bay area is communications equipment, Brookings says, with an export value of $608 million. Brookings doesn’t give details on each export, but the Bay area’s communications equipment could include sales by defense and communications contractor Raytheon in Pinellas County. The leading service export is financial services, with $629 million in exports.
Surprisingly, the study on Tampa’s exports doesn’t include fertilizer and phosphate, the dominant export from the Port of Tampa. That could be because Brookings measures products actually produced in a metro area, not those simply shipped out of it, McDearman said.