The path to more U.S. exports is through the nation’s metro areas

“To reset its economic trajectory, the United States needs to connect the macroeconomic goal of increasing exports with metropolitan reality of export production.”  So concludes a major study from the Brookings Institute. In plainer English: Metro areas produce exports, so export boosting policy should focus on improving the ability of metro areas to invent, produce and ship exports. 

The study calls for metropolitan-level initiatives to encourage public-private partnerships aimed at developing regional industry clusters and networks and marketing their products overseas as well as the federal-level efforts outlined in the National Export Initiative.

The study also provides a wealth of statistical data on metro area exports.

The nation’s four largest exporting metros, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston, are the top performers, exporting more than $50 billion apiece in 2008. Three quarters of computer and electronics exports are manufactured in the top 100 cities.

Other major metros — Dallas, San Francisco, Boston, Philadelphia, Detroit and Seattle — are also global players.

Together, these 10 large metros generated 43% of metro-sourced exports and 28% of total national exports in 2008.

The study explores the relative strengths and weaknesses of the metro areas. For example, strong manufacturing and patent producing metro areas are the most export oriented.

Four metro areas doubled the real value of their exports between 2003 and 2008. Houston doubled exports largely through sales of chemicals, while Wichita doubled exports based on its aviation cluster. Computers and electronics led Portland’s export growth. New Orleans doubled the value of its exports thanks to oil refining.

You can download the report here.

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