Chattanooga's export business booms

Chattanooga's export business booms

March 25th, 2012 in Opinion Free Press

U.S. trade with foreign nations is mutually beneficial, because it creates markets for our goods overseas and because it creates markets in our country for foreign goods. All that competition helps hold down the prices we pay for domestic and foreign products alike.

With foreign trade being so important, the Chattanooga metropolitan area is fortunate to be a significant player in the export business.

Some of our main exports are machinery, food, chemicals and textiles, and as you might have read recently in the Times Free Press, the Chattanooga area nearly doubled the value of its exports from 2005 through 2010. In that time, the value of exports from our area rose from about $540 million to slightly over $1 billion, according to a report issued by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

To put that in perspective, our area had the second-highest growth rate in export value among 150 metropolitan areas studied! And it is projected that exports from this area will rise to $1.7 billion by 2020.

But exports do not merely raise a city's or state's international business profile. They also support local jobs.

Almost 140,000 jobs across Tennessee are sustained by exports of goods that are manufactured in this state.

In Hamilton County alone, approximately 11,000 jobs are linked to export markets. The Business and Economic Research Center at Middle Tennessee State University did a study which found that almost 200 businesses in Hamilton County are involved in exporting to at least some degree. That gives us the second-highest number of exporting businesses in the state, behind only Shelby County, where Memphis is located.

The biggest foreign markets for the state's goods are:

* Canada, which receives $7.2 billion worth of Tennessee's exports.

* Mexico, $3 billion.

* Communist China, $1.8 billion.

* Japan, $1.3 billion.

* Germany, $784 million.

And it's not only that foreign countries buy things made in Tennessee. They also invest heavily in our state and in our good workforce. An article in the Times Free Press not long ago spelled out the major investments that five foreign nations have in Tennessee -- and the 77,000 Tennessee jobs that those investments support.

Here they are:

* Japan has 179 facilities in Tennessee and a $14.6 billion investment.

* Germany has 68 facilities here -- including the Volkswagen assembly plant at Chattanooga's Enterprise South industrial park -- for a $2.6 billion investment.

* Canada has 84 facilities in the state, for a $1.2 billion investment.

* The United Kingdom has 124 facilities in Tennessee and a $1.1 billion total investment.

* Sweden has 19 facilities in the state and a $552 million investment.

Tennessee's economically vital exports and the investments that foreign nations have made in manufacturing and other facilities in Tennessee illustrate the importance of international trade.

They also demonstrate why we should be skeptical of the occasional calls for the government to clamp down on free trade by doing things such as imposing high tariffs. Harsh trade restrictions hurt not only our international competitors but U.S. workers as well.