Two years ago the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings released a major report entitled “Export Nation” that insisted, in the depths of the Great Recession, that exporting held great promise for generating needed sales and jobs in a rebalanced American economy.
Because doubling export growth in real terms hadn’t been seen by the United States since the early post-war period, a number of economists naturally expressed skepticism.
Now, the data are coming in and the benefits of a U.S. export push are becoming clearer and clearer.
American exports are seeing their fastest growth in more than a decade. Sales abroad are supporting jobs that are helping to drive the nation’s recovery. And what is more, U.S. regions are central to the action, realizing that exporting is essentially a metropolitan act.
We’ll be further exploring these trends at an event to be held at the Brookings Institution this Thursday. In conjunction with that we’ll also release a new paper entitled “Export Nation 2012: How U.S. Metropolitan Areas Are Driving National Growth” during a high-profile forum (register to attend here) that will showcase detailed new data on the export strengths of the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas one year into the recovery—or one year into the national economic “reset,” as we’d like to think of it.
Along these lines, Thursday’s event will update and build upon the previous “Export Nation” report, released in 2010 and containing data through 2008, which changed the national dialogue on exports by introducing a more accurate way to measure and map exports across metropolitan areas.
In this fashion, “Export Nation 2012” will show that metropolitan exports drove the nation’s recovery in 2010, led by a manufacturing resurgence that set 11 diverse metropolitan areas on a course to doubling their exports in five years.
In addition to data, moreover, we’ll present dynamic interactions among metropolitan and federal leaders who will discuss the outlines of a national-regional policy agenda reflective of the reality of an export reality that finds that U.S. metros generate 65 percent of the nations’ exports and over 75 percent of service exports.
In that sense, a national export strategy must by nature be a metropolitan export strategy, and as it happens, smart metropolitan areas are busy developing and coalescing around their own fact-driven, bottom-up export agendas. Given that, a top priority of the federal government’s National Export Initiative should be to support and draw in these Metropolitan Export Initiatives.
For example, four metro areas in particular--Los Angeles, Minneapolis Saint Paul, Portland (OR), and Syracuse--are developing sophisticated metropolitan export plans in cooperation with Brookings that employ detailed market intelligence to the development of smarter export-related services and strategies to help their regions’ firms connect better to global customers. For its part, the federal government needs to help create a conducive platform for such local export promotion. The next American economy must be more export-oriented and, to make that so, the nation, and its metropolitan areas, need to work together.