Friday, February 22, 2008

Exports show region's resiliency

An article based on my recent blog article was published in the Rochester D&C on Feb 18 :

Exports show region's resiliency

Deepak SethEditorial Board community member
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(February 18, 2008) —

On Jan. 24, the U.S. Commerce Department introduced a new data series that precisely measures manufacturing export values for metropolitan areas. In 2006, the Rochester metropolitan area recorded export sales of $4.6 billion.

Rochester was the leader in upstate New York, ahead of Buffalo-Niagara Falls ($4.2 billion), Albany-Schenectady-Troy ($3.4 billion), Poughkeepsie-Newburgh-Middletown ($2 billion) and Syracuse ($2 billion). In fact, Rochester was the No. 1 metro area in the entire state, excluding the New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island region. A remarkable achievement indeed. More remarkable is the fact that this has been achieved at a time when the area is seeing a steady decline in manufacturing potential.

Canada is Rochester's single biggest manufactured exports trading partner, followed by Mexico, China and Germany. Our area's biggest exports were chemicals, computers and electronic products, machinery and plastics and rubber products.

These statistics reveal certain important points:
  • Rochester-area delegations to Albany and Washington should take note of these facts and ensure that they are factored in while deciding the allocation of governmental developmental dollars to the Rochester area. We always seem to be fighting a losing battle with Buffalo.
  • Export-based industries not only create jobs but also help in reducing the national debt. Special incentives should be formulated to attract and grow such businesses.
  • One will have to wait and see the economic implications of the changed travel requirements with Canada. Delays or unease in traveling between the two countries may manifest itself in reduced trade. This is one area where federal policy will very directly affect Rochester residents.
  • Mexico is also a major export destination. Opportunities exist to leverage our area's Hispanic heritage and enhance the bilingual potential.
  • The exports destination basket is spread very thin. Area businesses should be striving for establishing toeholds in other emerging economies: India, Russia, Brazil, South Africa, Middle East, etc. Exports to China also do not seem to reflect the potential that exists there.
Overall, these numbers speak well for the resiliency of the Rochester economy and the adaptability of the local businesses to the changing economic environment.
The spirit of innovation and out-of-the-box thinking that drove Rochester in the past can continue to do so in the future. Local business and political leadership have a very important role to play by adequately harnessing and directing federal, state and local resources.

Community members serve on the Editorial Board and write regular columns.

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