From Senator Larry Teague
LITTLE ROCK –Arkansas companies exported $7.6 billion in merchandise last year, an increase of 36 percent over the previous year.
The growth in sales to overseas markets by Arkansas firms was due in large part to increased exports of transportation equipment, according to the International Trade Administration, a branch of the federal Commerce Department.
Transportation equipment accounted for $2.1 billion of our total in exported merchandise. The next largest categories of exports were chemicals ($925 million), food and food-related products ($769 million), machinery except electrical products ($713 million) and manufactured metals ($569 million).
Arkansas’ largest market was Canada. About $1.7 billion of our exports were shipped to Canada in 2012. That is about 21 percent of the total value of goods exported by Arkansas firms.
Mexico, the second largest foreign market, received $847 million in Arkansas products. Mexico was followed by China ($719 million) France ($365 million) and Brazil ($361 million).
Of all the major metropolitan areas in the South Central region, Little Rock- North Little Rock- Conway had the highest rate of expansion, with 171 percent. The areas exported $2.4 billion in goods and led the state in the dollar amount of exports. The Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers area was second with $668 million in exports. Fort Smith was next with $503 million of exports, followed by Pine Bluff with $281 million, Jonesboro with $128 million and Hot Springs with $88 million.
The Houston-Sugarland-Baytown is the largest metropolitan exporter in the eight-state region with total exports last year of more than $110 billion. Texas was the largest exporter in the region and petroleum products were a major component of its overseas shipments.
The dollar value of Arkansas exports has doubled since 2005, when they totaled $3.8 billion. More than 1,600 Arkansas firms exported products and more than three fourths of those companies are small to medium sized, with fewer than 500 employees.
More than 14 percent of the manufacturing jobs in Arkansas are dependent on exports, according to the Arkansas District Export Council.
Arkansas firms now compete in a global marketplace, and state economic development officials help them with the complexities of shipping products to foreign countries and complying with international laws on tariffs and taxes.
The other side of the coin is to compete for foreign companies that are looking to invest in Arkansas. An estimated 34,800 Arkansas workers are employed by firms with headquarters in foreign countries. Corporations based in France, Japan, Great Britain and Switzerland are the largest foreign employers with a presence in Arkansas.
The United States is the second largest exporter in the world, after China. Germany and Japan are third and fourth. The Netherlands and France are the fifth and sixth largest exporters.
As in Arkansas, transportation equipment was the dominant product exported by the United States in 2012, accounting for about 16 percent of all American merchandise sold overseas. Computers and electronic products were the second largest category, accounting for about 13 percent of all products exported by U.S. companies. The United States imports more than it exports, and buying petroleum from foreign countries accounts for more than half of our trade deficit.
Of all the American companies that sell products overseas, 98 percent have fewer than 500 employees.