While Indiana exports reached their highest level ever last year, global economic roadblocks are tempering hopes for a repeat performance in 2012, according to a report from the Indiana University Kelley School of Business.

The report released from the Indiana Business Research Center said Indiana exported more than $32 billion worth of goods in 2011, or about 2.1 percent of the nation's total. Exports from Indiana stood at $12 billion in 1997 and have shown steady growth aside from recessions in early and late 2000s, according to Tanya Hall, an economic research analyst at the Indiana Business Research Center and study author.

Vehicles and parts, which includes automobile transmissions, automobile sheet metal assembly and recreational vehicles, is Indiana's top exporting industry with improvements in activity from manufacturers such as Honda Motor Co., General Motors Co., and Winamac-based Braun Corp. The report said recovery in the nation's automobile industry has had benefits for Canada and Mexico, which are the destination of nearly half of Indiana's exports worth about $15.1 billion.

Other top industries are industrial machinery including computers, pharmaceutical products, optical and medical instruments, electric machinery, iron and steel, organic chemicals, plastics, aircraft and spacecraft parts, and chemical products.

About 12 percent of Indiana's GDP depends on exports, according to the report.

Commenting on the report, Indiana University Northwest professor Surekha Rao said there should be concern about the 2012 export standing this year because of the economic woes in Europe and projections of moderating growth in developing countries including China.

In May, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development forecast slower growth in gross domestic product this year compared to 2011 in the United Kingdom, Germany and France. Spain's GDP is expected to contract in 2012. Those four countries are among the top eight destinations for the state's exports.

"That's the reason why we need to be concerned and explore newer markets," said Rao, who mentioned north Africa as a potential destination for Indiana goods.

Afghanistan receives the 10th largest share of the state's exports and that share is 13 times higher than it was in 2008.

Continued slowdowns within economies around the world will reduce the demand for Indiana products and could impact job creation, Rao said.

Rao said with Northwest Indiana's reliance on primary metal manufacturing, additional job creation in the area could depend on the ability to increase the number of markets the companies located here serve.

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