Exporting growth: Greater Chattanooga area exports outpace U.S. gains

Exporting growth: Greater Chattanooga area exports outpace U.S. gains

September 29th, 2013 by Dave Flessner in Business Around the Region

Ted Alling, CEO of Access America Transport, speaks to media after announcing the creation of 450 jobs in Chattanooga during a press conference Monday.

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

Export growth

Prior to the recession, Chattanooga export growth was slower than the nation.


7.5 percent: Chattanooga export growth

8 percent: U.S. export growth

But during the recession and recovery, Chattanooga exports have grown faster than the nation.


9.5 percent: Chattanooga export growth

8 percent: U.S. export growth

Source: Brookings Report on Exports

After building a $500 million-a-year trucking business across the United States, the founders of Access America are going global.

Ted Alling, who started the Chattanooga logistics business in 2001, is launching Steam Logistics to handle international air and cargo shipments to expand.

"We plan on having offices in Hong Kong, London, Toronto, all over the world," he said.

The overseas move is part of a growing global expansion by Chattanooga businesses eager to tap into bigger international markets for their goods and services. A new study by the Brookings Institution found that exports from Chattanooga area businesses grew at a faster pace after the Great Recession than they did prior to the economic downturn and export growth locally is outpacing the nationwide gains in such sales.

Last year, exports from businesses in metropolitan Chattanooga totaled $3.53 billion, accounting for 14.1 percent of all output in the region. Even though Chattanooga is hundreds of miles from any international ports or borders, Chattanooga's export intensity was still among the top third of all major cities in 2012, according to the Brookings study.

"In Chattanooga, it's very clear that your concentration in transportation equipment industries has played a really big role in export growth, which is a real success story of this region," said Ryan Donahue, a policy analyst for Brookings Metro Monitor. "The top three industries for Chattanooga's growing exports since the recession ended are motor vehicles, motor vehicle parts and aircraft products and parts and the presence of those industries has helped Chattanooga boost its exports."

New businesses that have located or grown in the region such as Volkswagen and Access America, and existing manufacturers that have boosted overseas sales such as Astec Industries and Miller Industries, are selling more of their products outside of the United States. With the more favorable currency and fuel prices in recent years, exports are helping fuel the recovery, even with weaker international markets due to more sluggish growth in both Europe and Asia.

Donahue said the United States as a whole is likely to fall about $200 billion short of meeting President Obama's goal announced in its first state of the union address to double exports in the next five years. But export growth has been faster than the increase in domestic sales over the past four years.

"Globally engaged U.S. companies are a powerful engine for economic growth," said John Engler, a former Michigan governor who serves as president of the Business Roundtable.

A Business Roundtable study found that 725 Tennessee companies that operate internationally on a daily basis added $49.2 billion to Tennessee's private-sector economy in 2011 and accounted for 48 percent of Tennessee's economic output. Those exporting companies directly or indirectly supporting 1.4 million private-sector jobs. The typical exporting business in Tennessee paid an average of $60,385 in wages and benefits, according to the Business Roundtable study.

In Georgia, 982 companies regularly operating internationally directly contributed $952 billion to the Peach State economy in 2011, helping to support 2.2 million jobs and 55 percent of the state's private-sector economic output. Those working in export-related industries earned an average of $67,496 a year in wages and benefits, according to the Business Roundtable study.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 757-6340