News Column

Minn. Exports Saw Record Year in 2012

May 8, 2013

Minnesota exports set a record last year of $20.6 billion, led by growth in products sent to Canada, China and Mexico.

Manufactured machinery, medical instruments and iron ore from Minnesota's Iron Range were among the state's top exports. Vehicles -- a category that would include snowmobiles and ATVs made by Polaris Inc. and Arctic Cat -- were also among the state's top-five exports.

"Minnesota exports have been on a record-setting pace for more than two years," said Katie Clark Sieben, commissioner of the state's Department of Employment and Economic Development, or DEED. The state's manufactured export businesses support nearly 115,000 jobs, she said, and helped Minnesota rank 20th in total export sales among all U.S. states last year.

The numbers, contained in a report released Wednesday, May 8, by DEED, also showed that almost 200 Minnesota companies have begun exporting since 2010. "Many small companies are understanding the value of exporting," Clark Sieben said.

The $20.6 billion total for 2012 was up 1.2 percent -- or $256 million -- compared with 2011. The fastest growing export markets were in Central and South America, up 9 percent for the year, Clark Sieben said.

Mexico moved up a spot to become Minnesota's third largest trading partner last year, and the South American numbers were up largely because of Brazil's growing economy. Minnesota's exports to Brazil were up a solid 10 percent to $341 million last year. Brazil imported a mix of

Minnesota products, including machinery, medical equipment and aircraft.

The soft spot internationally for Minnesota was Asia, where exports were down 3 percent.

Canada remains Minnesota's single largest export market at $6 billion, up 2.7 percent from 2011.

DEED and Gov. Mark Dayton also are pushing a Global Competitiveness Initiative through the state Legislature this session. The initiative, which would cost $1.5 million, aims to increase grant funding for small businesses that want to export, open three new trade offices in as-yet-undetermined international locations, and launch a new marketing effort in foreign markets. Minnesota's one current international trade office is located in Shanghai.

Minnesota companies engaged in exporting activity include large and small businesses, and a wide range of products.

One of the state's newer exporters is Baby Elephant Ears Inc., a company based in Cambridge, Minn., that makes headrests for babies. The company is now exporting to six markets globally and is a $1 million business, Clark Sieben said.

Polaris, the Medina-based publicly traded maker of ATVs and other power sports equipment, has been aggressively growing its international presence.

When Polaris released its first-quarter results last month, it noted that it had introduced eight new models for its 2014 lineup of snowmobiles, and that sales to customers outside of North America were up more than 100 percent compared to the first quarter of the previous year. Record snowfalls in Scandinavian and Russian markets helped drive increases in retail sales, the company said.

John Welbes can be reached at 651-228-2175.

Minnesota's largest export markets in 2012:

1) Canada, $6 billion, up 2.7 percent.

2) China, $2.5 billion, up 7.1 percent.

3) Mexico, $1.3 billion, up 6.7 percent.

4) S. Korea, $707 million, up 0.8 percent.

5) Belgium, $640 million, up 2.7 percent

Minnesota's top export products, 2012:

1) Machinery, $4 billion, up 2.2 percent.

2) Optic, medical instruments, $3.1 billion, up 10.4 percent.

3) Vehicles, $1.9 billion, up 10.4 percent.

4) Ores, slag, ash, $668 million, up 68.5 percent.

5) Food waste, $516 million, up 6.8 percent.


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Source: Copyright Saint Paul Pioneer Press (MN) 2013

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