Alabama exports set new annual record in 2017, topping $21.7 billion

Alabama exports set new annual record in 2017, topping $21.7 billion
Alabama's top exports through the Port of Mobile include transportation equipment, chemicals, primary metals, minerals and ore, and paper. (contributed)

Alabama exports totaled a record $21.7 billion in 2017, powered by rising overseas shipments of products such as automobiles, aircraft components, chemicals, paper and minerals.

New government trade figures show that exports of Alabama-made goods and services increased more than 6 percent from 2016’s total of $20.5 billion, the state’s previous annual record. The gain reflects a long-term trend, as Alabama exports have surged 21 percent since 2011 and 50 percent in a decade, figures indicate.

“We’ve seen Alabama exports continue to expand in recent years, strengthening our economy at home and creating more opportunities for our citizens,” Gov. Kay Ivey said. “The companies sending Alabama-made products to markets across the world are not just large, multinational companies, but also small and medium-sized companies located in communities across the state.

“Setting a new annual export record is just another example of the economic success that Alabama is enjoying right now,” she added.

Mercedes-Benz is a top Alabama exporter, and the state ranked No. 3 for vehicle exports in 2017. (Mercedes-Benz)

189 countries

In 2017, Alabama business exported goods and services to 189 countries. The Top 5 markets were:

  • Canada ($4.14 billion, flat compared to 2016)
  • China ($3.62 billion, 10.6 percent increase)
  • Germany ($2.94 billion, 8 percent decrease)
  • Mexico ($2.9 billion, 10 percent increase)
  • Japan ($682.6 million, 29.9 percent increase)
The Port of Mobile is Alabama’s gateway to global commerce. (contributed)

“Exporting is a fundamental economic pillar that supports growth in our state, and increasing demand for Alabama-made products around the globe underscores the success of our dynamic manufacturing sector,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“Growing export activity contributes economic vitality and spurs job creation across the state,” he added.

Transportation equipment remained Alabama’s No. 1 export category, rising nearly 2 percent to $10.9 billion in 2017. Motor vehicles represent the largest part of Alabama exports in this category, but the total also includes overseas shipments of auto parts, and aircraft and spacecraft components.

Other top Alabama exports in 2017 included chemicals ($2.3 billion), primary metals ($1.9 billion), minerals and ore ($1.3 billion), and paper ($1.1 billion), according to trade figures. Exports of minerals, primarily coal, rose 158 percent last year, while primary metals and paper each rose about 28 percent.

“With much of the world’s purchasing power located outside the U.S., Alabama companies are looking at markets beyond our borders for growth opportunities,” said Hilda Lockhart, director of the Commerce Department’s Office of International Trade.

“Exports enhance the quality of life for all Alabamians and elevate prosperity in the state. Creating jobs through exports for the state’s citizens is key to accelerating Alabama globally,” she added.

Expanding internationally

Alabama’s Top 10 export categories accounted for nearly $19.8 billion, or 91 percent, of the state’s total exports. Exports to NAFTA partners Canada and Mexico accounted for $7 billion, or 32 percent of the total. Exports to 20 free trade agreement countries rose 3 percent to $8.8 billion, figures indicate.

Alabama ranked No. 22 among the states in export volume in 2017, moving up one spot from the previous year, Lockhart said. Alabama’s increase of 6.3 percent last year was in line with the overall U.S. gain of 6.6 percent.

Commerce’s International Trade Office offers resources to help Alabama companies enter profitable new overseas markets through frequent trade and business development missions, training, foreign-market information and international contacts.

The department is a partner in the Export Alabama Alliance, a seamless network of international trade agencies that share the fundamental objective of helping Alabama companies expand their business internationally.

This story originally appeared on the Alabama Department of Commerce’s Made in Alabama website.

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