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Mississippi’s exports off to a good start in 2006

Jackson — Mississippi is becoming a bigger player in the world marketplace. In 2005, the state’s exports were up by more than 26% over 2004, according to statistics released by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA). It’s no surprise to anyone that the export of vehicles led the list of products accounting for this increase. Vehicles were followed by electrical machinery, chemicals, machinery and wood pulp to set an all-time record for exports from the state.

“I’m struck by how diversified our products are,” said Jay Moon, executive director of the Mississippi Manufacturers Association. “Obviously autos are a big part of the exports with the Nissan plant up and running, but we’re seeing manufacturers starting to expand and seeing more products.”

Total exports for Mississippi in 2005 were just over $4 billion, which was $828 million more than Mississippi’s total 2004 exports. Top export markets include Canada, Mexico, Belgium, Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom.

MDA is not surprised at this increase, says Adam Murray, international trade specialist in the Global Business Division. “A lot was due to Nissan,” he said. “We knew once they were up and running that exports would increase. They have a product we haven’t had before.”

Another big part of the increase was integrated circuits in the electrical machinery category. Murray said $133 million was exported just in that category, a significant increase from the $1.1 million in 2004. A large portion of integrated circuits go to Canada and the United Kingdom.

He adds that the export of chemicals would be higher if DuPont, located in Harrison County, had not been closed for four months due to Hurricane Katrina. According to Murray, DuPont’s export figures were down 10% for 2005. “We expect their numbers to increase along with the numbers of all exporters on the Coast as the area recovers,” he said.

MDA assists state companies by helping them promote their products and test market them in overseas markets and participates in international trade shows in various markets.

“MDA has a team of project managers who work directly with Mississippi business owners to identify export opportunities and to generate business leads through our participating in catalog shows, trade exhibitions and other events around the globe,” said Liz Cleveland, manager of MDA’s International Trade Office. “It’s great to see how that work is paying off.”

This year is already looking good as January 2006 is 56% above January 2005, mainly because of the export of vehicles and electrical machinery, Murray said.

Moon said that a lot of the state’s manufacturers are also importing component parts from around the world and using them in the finished products they export. “We have a global marketplace on both sides,” he said. “There’s no question we’re playing in the world marketplace.”

Moon feels the state’s intermodal transportation system of highways, railroads, airports and ports contributes to the increased importing and exporting activity. For example, the air cargo capacity has improved at the Jackson International Airport and rail traffic has picked up in recent years.

“People are willing to make investments to be able to move products,” he said. “The private business community and the work done at MDA present a lot of potential buyers with things they didn’t know about us. It gives a higher profile to Mississippi products.”

He says it’s worth mentioning that two of the state’s leading export countries — Canada and Mexico — are partners in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

“The numbers reflect our efforts. Manufacturing is getting stronger and seeing more business,” he said. “Nissan being here is tremendous for us, but the markets are getting tougher and tougher. We have to work together to keep the word out there because we have competition with emerging markets now we didn’t have before.”

He also feels manufacturers’ membership in the Mississippi World Trade Center (MWTC) is a contributing factor in the export increase. Barbara Travis, executive director of the MWTC, says the group does a lot of education and marketing of state products.

“Those of us who work each day helping Mississippi companies understand how to take advantage of the vast opportunities for selling products and services abroad are extremely pleased by the 2005 year-end data,” she said. “The fact that our state’s export numbers continue to rise sends a strong message that our business community is indeed developing the necessary skills and technical expertise to successfully compete in the global arena.”

She points out that Mississippi’s increase for 2005 exports is the seventh highest increase in the nation, mostly due to the high-ticket items of vehicles and machinery. “It doesn’t take many of those to have a big increase, and we also see an increase in the number of companies actually exporting,” she said. “We like to think the work of all our partners is contributing.”

The MWTC gives briefings to companies of where opportunities are and how they can get started exporting. Travis says a lot of businesses want to export but don’t know how.

“We hope to encourage people to do more,” she said. “We will have seminars on getting started, finance and international business protocol and culture. Cultural differences are another concern and we try to interject it into everything we offer.”

Leland Speed, executive director of MDA, said, “Mississippi is opening new doors for export opportunities among our business and industry sectors. We are changing the way the world views our state by growing industries not traditionally associated with the South and demonstrating the quality of our products and services to a global market.”

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.


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