By Deputy Commissioner for International Trade Mary Waters
The U.S. Census Bureau released the 2015 state-level trade statistics recently, and they show that Georgia remains a leader in international trade. 2015 was the sixth consecutive year of record-setting total trade for Georgia. Imports continued to grow to an all-time high $88.55 billion, while Georgia exports held their ground at $38.55 billion, slightly lower than last year’s record total.
Given the relative strength of the dollar, a decline in exports was not unexpected this year; however, a closer look at the export data reveals plenty of good news for the state. First, Georgia exports fell only slightly from their 2014 peak, and remain above 2013 totals. The state’s exports dipped just two percent – less than the national average of seven percent and less than many other exporting states. Furthermore, if you look at the ten year trend, Georgia exports have grown more than 90 percent since 2006. That shows impressive export growth.
Second, Georgia’s export markets are highly diversified. Companies sold goods to 217 countries and territories in 2015, and while Georgia’s top 10 export destinations account for approximately half of total exports (56%), the state’s merchandise exports literally span the globe. This helps to lessen potential export declines to top trading partners who may encounter headwinds in the global economy.
Third, exports of the state’s top manufacturing goods showed positive growth in 2015 which sends an important message about the strength of the state’s manufacturing sector.
For example, aviation/aerospace exports achieved gains of nearly two percent above last year’s total. Exports of machinery (turbojets, gas turbines, pumps, circuit boards and panels, etc.) and motor vehicles showed even stronger growth. These gains also had a significant impact on some of Georgia’s top trading partners – for example, aerospace exports to Germany, Saudi Arabia and Canada increased 55 percent, 137 percent and 150 percent respectively. Georgia is built for manufacturing, and that fact shows clearly in the export statistics.
All of these details are important because global sales translate to jobs in local communities. The International Trade Administration estimates that for every $1 billion in exports, approximately 5,600 jobs are created or maintained in the U.S. economy. This means that the dollar value of Georgia exports in 2015 supports more than 200,000 jobs. At the local level, increased exports support companies that tend to grow faster, pay higher wages, and are less likely to go out of business than domestically-focused firms.
Let’s be honest, with the current strength of the dollar, it would be easy for companies to remain focused on the U.S. market, and leave exports for another day; however, to ensure that the state remains competitive and well-positioned in the global economy, it is imperative that we continue to encourage companies to stay focused on exporting. Now is the time for businesses to explore new international opportunities, and to utilize the various resources at the federal, state and local levels to help them do it.
More than 14,000 Georgia exporters contributed to the state’s $38.55 billion export total in 2015, despite global headwinds, and there is plenty of room for even more firms to get into the export game. Currently, 95 percent of the world’s customers are located outside of U.S. borders. Global consumer patterns are shifting to new markets, and the world needs the high quality products and services that Georgia firms can provide.
At the Georgia Department of Economic Development, we know that international trade means quality jobs and investment for our state. Our international trade division will continue to work with exporters, communities and private-sector partners all across the state, to create new market opportunities for Ge0rgia products and services.