Performance Trends and Changes
by Steven G. Livingston | 1 | 2 | 3
The export performance of Tennessee's counties is of perennial interest. Two new estimations of county exports are available, and over the next several issues we will examine trends and changes in the state's county-level export activity.1 In this issue we will focus on current performance, but we will later turn to longer-term patterns. Readers may wish to compare this analysis to that of county-level exporting establishments in the summer issue of Global Commerce. Together, the two reveal much about the state's export performance at the local level.
In 2010, Tennessee is estimated to have exported about $30 billion in goods and services.2 As we might expect, the bulk of this activity was located in the state's major metro areas. Six counties each exported more than $1 billion. Combined, they accounted for almost a third of Tennessee's exports. All are metro counties. The pie chart at right shows the dominance of MSA activity in the state's export profile. Is this just due to size, or are metro counties more export-oriented than their less-urban counterparts? If we adjust counties for population size, we in fact see a greater mix of counties that might be termed "export intensive." Only Sullivan County makes both lists. It is an unusually successful exporter whether measured by raw numbers or by adjusting for population. Dyer County, not in an MSA, has the state's highest ratio of exports per resident, though Bedford is a very close second. It is not surprising that the counties that host the state's major export industries, automotive, chemicals, and cotton, tend to do well.
That said, recent history shows a decided trend toward metro counties. In 2005, the state's non-metro counties out-exported urban areas by a small amount on a per-capita basis. Five years later the situation was reversed, with metro countries exporting over $800 more per capita than more rural counties.
1. The Brookings Institution's "Export Nation" project has produced county data. MTSU's BERC has also estimated county exports using a method that makes them comparable to earlier estimates made by Raman Vishwanathan in a TVA Rural Studies staff paper. All estimates are based on county production patterns. Brookings relies more on BLS estimates, while the latter studies use IMPLAN. In this issue we primarily use the Brookings projections.
2. Based on shipper's declaration forms, the state exported just under $26 billion in goods for that year. The discrepancy is revealing as to the true competitive position of the state, and we will return to it in another issue.