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Mississippi leads country in growth of exports

Mississippi’s first place ranking in the U.S. in growth of exports for the first six months of 2001 is particularly significant considering the recent economic slowdown in the U.S.

“I think it is amazing given the economic situation in this country that we have been able to not only maintain exports, but have such a significant increase,” said Liz Cleveland, bureau manager of the National/International Division, Mississippi Development Authority. “That is pretty impressive for our business community. It is fortunate at this particular time that we have been able to do as well as we have. Whether or not it can hold given the situation we are in right now, I don’t know. We are really going to have to press, and companies are going to have to stay committed, to hold the exports at this level.”

Information from the two ports on the Coast also showed a surge in exports this year. John Webb, acting port director for the Mississippi State Port Authority (MSPA) at Gulfport, said their port saw a net increase in exports of 14%. The following key commodities were up: poultry, up 43%; textile and apparel related categories, up 19%; and paper, up 14%.

“The increase in poultry is attributable to a resurgence of the market in Russia and the former Soviet Union,” Webb said. “The increase in textile/apparel related categories is due to new customers secured by Crowley as well as the diversion of cargo from Crowley’s more expensive operations (i.e. Florida ports) to Gulfport.”

Webb said one factor that could be helping encourage exports from Mississippi is businesses exporting through state ports are eligible for up to $1 million in state tax credits per year. Webb said a similar import tax credit bill might be promoted in the legislature next year

Helping the overall state picture are significant increases in exports through the Port of Pascagoula, where poultry exports are up 49% and fuel exports are up 74% over the same period last year. Pascagoula’s total exports are up 55.5%.

Webb said that the news about the increase in Mississippi’s exports is a bright spot at a time when most economic news in the country has been dismal.

“It is sad that every time you pick up the newspaper or watch the news, you read and hear a lot of discouraging news,” he said. “This is good news for a change.

This marks the first time Mississippi has led the country in growth in exports, which for the first six months of 2001 were up about 65% over the same period in 2000. The top ranking caught many business people both inside and outside of the state by surprise.

“I think it is a surprise,” Cleveland said. “I’ve been hearing from people outside the state who closely follow these kind of statistics who say this is very impressive. I think people are beginning to notice the work the companies here have been putting in.”

Cleveland said that one of the primary building blocks in the power of the U.S. is its economic strength. So it is particularly important now to maintain trading corridors at least with our primary international business partners whatever the country is facing.

The U.S. Commerce Department’s statistics showed that for the first six months of the year, Mississippi’s exports totaled $2.4 billion, an increase from $1.5 billion in the same period of time in 2000. Cleveland said a large portion of the increase is attributed to the sale of non-automotive electronic components to Mexico.

“According to the numbers I have looked at, we were exporting considerably more electronic components to Mexico than Texas is,” Cleveland said. “The increase in exports for Texas was only .72% during the same period.”

About $350 million is attributed to sale of a vessel to Norway, probably a semi-submersible drilling rig produced by Friede Goldman Halter. Cleveland said sales in that range aren’t unusual for Mississippi because of work done at Friede Goldman and at Northrup Grumman Ship Systems, Ingalls division.

The next closest Southern state in increased exports was Arkansas, which saw a 23.4% increase. Alabama saw an 11.4% increase, Tennessee

was up 2.7%, and Georgia and Texas were up .72% increase.

All top 10 export categories for Mississippi increased in 2001 over 2000.

Categories showing big increases in exports from Mississippi include the following:

Ships and boats, up from $286,000 in 2000 to $772 million in 2001.

Electrical machinery, $84 million in 2000 to $210 million in 2001 for an increase of 53%.

Machinery, $146 million to $225 million for an increase of 53.5%.

Miscellaneous chemical products, $25 million to $46 million for an increase of 88%.

Organic chemicals, $5 million to $29 million for an increase of 448%.

Aircraft/spacecraft, $11 million to $16.5 million for an increase of 52%.

Inorganic chemicals/rare earth materials, $34 million to $47 million for an increase of 37%.

Categories that decreased in the amount of exports were:

Knit apparel, from $41 million to $15 million for a decrease of 63%.

Meat, from $110 million down to $43 million for a decrease of 61.5%.

Iron/steel products, from $17 million to $11.5 million for a decrease of 31%.

Wood pulp, from $177 million to $157 million for a decrease of 11%.

Wood, $32 million to $24 million for a decrease of 25%.

Tanning, dye, paint putty, $133 million to $114 million for a decrease of 15%.

Aluminum, from $15 million to $13 million for a decrease of 13.5%.

Fertilizers, $32.5 million to $31 million for a decrease of 5.6%.

Exports to Mississippi’s No. 1 trading partner, Canada, have been increasing. They went from $2.2 billion in 1999 to $2.7 billion in 2000, a 23% increase. Exports to Mexico were $518 million in 1999 compared to $521 million in 2000. Exports to Belgium went from $121 million in 1999 to $179 million in 2000. Exports to Australia showed an increase from $33 million in 1999 to $124 million in 2000 for an increase of 275%.

Contact MBJ staff writer Becky Gillette at mullein@datasync.com or (228) 872-3457.

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