Indiana exports reach new record high

2013-08-31T19:51:00Z 2013-11-05T18:17:17Z Indiana exports reach new record highJoseph S. Pete joseph.pete@nwi.com, (219) 933-3316 nwitimes.com

Car parts, steel coils and other products Hoosiers make every day travel all across the globe.

Hot-rolled steel sheets forged in East Chicago are shipped to auto plants in Canada, and car seats made in Hammond end up in sport-utility vehicles in Russia.

Indiana is exporting more and more goods abroad, and at a faster growth rate than both the Midwest and the nation as a whole. The state's exports hit a record high of $34.3 billion last year, up from $32.2 billion in 2011, according to a report by Indiana University's Kelley School of Business.

Exports are still on the rise nationally because the dollar remains weak relative to other currencies, said economic analyst Tanya Hall, a co-author of the Indiana Business Research Center's study. However, economic turmoil in Europe and other factors have caused that export growth to slow after double-digits gains of 21 percent in 2010 and 15.8 percent in 2011.

Since 2010, the Obama administration has made it a top priority to boost exports, such as by removing trade barriers and helping firms of all sizes enter new markets abroad. U.S. exports reached an all-time record of $2.2 trillion last year.

Indiana's automakers and auto parts suppliers, such as Lear Corp. and Contract Services Group in Hammond, exported $3.1 billion in goods last year. The automotive industry remained Indiana's top exporter, despite a 7.6 percent decline in value compared to 2011.

Cars seats assembled at Lear go into Ford vehicles that are sold in Russia and Venezuela. Statewide, the biggest foreign markets for cars and car parts are Canada, Mexico, China, Australia, Germany and Saudi Arabia.

Steel, Northwest Indiana's signature product, ranked as the sixth-biggest industry in the state when it comes to exports. The mills, which are mostly concentrated along Lake Michigan's southern shore, shipped nearly $1.3 billion worth of products abroad last year, mainly to Canada and Mexico.

A small fraction of the steel produced in Indiana makes its way to Japan, Germany and the United Kingdom. But more than 87 percent of the steel the state exports stays in North America.

In 2012, the Indiana's steel exports rose by 11 percent. Statewide, the steel industry posted the third-highest growth in exports, after the pharmaceutical and aircraft/spacecraft sectors, Hall said.

Overall, Indiana exports grew by 6.6 percent last year, compared to a national growth rate of 4.4 percent. Since 1998, the Hoosier state's export growth has outperformed other Midwestern states and the nation as a whole 10 times, Hall said.

The state is seeing faster growth because it makes some of the products, including pharmaceuticals and aircraft parts, that are most in-demand internationally, she said. Exports to both China and Germany, for instance, have been surging over the last few years.

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