The average American county exported $5,819 in goods and services per resident. If we use this as a benchmark, 27 of Tennessee's 95 counties met or exceeded that level. A look at the first map1 below shows they are clustered among the cotton regions of West Tennessee, the automotive belt south of Nashville, the chemical producing areas in the northeastern part of the state, and the varied industrial region around Chattanooga. There are only a few exceptions (such as Oak Ridge's Anderson County).
Bledsoe County is the only county that exports less than $1,000 per capita. It joins eight others that export less than $1,500 per person (several counties just make it over that bar!). These are almost all Cumberland Plateau counties.
If we examine counties by recent past performance (2005 to 2010), a period during which Tennessee exports grew by $4.8 billion, we find that 23 counties actually lost exports. Maury (-$296 million) and Warren (-$191 million) stand in terms of the size of their losses, in these two cases generated by plant closures. A map of counties with declining exports2 exhibits some patterns, albeit less pronounced than the previous map. The rural areas north of Jackson and the counties outlying the Nashville MSA stand out as problem areas. Nine counties, on the other hand, gained more than $100 million in exports over this period, led by Shelby (+$1.379 billion), Hamilton (+$644 million), and Davidson (+$592 million). Together, these three counties account for more than half of the state's export gains over these years.
We might also judge export success by those counties that were able to increase their percentage of state exports3 over this period. Forty counties accomplished this feat, led by Moore and Fayette counties. (The obvious weakness of this statistic is that some of these "gainers" started from very low levels.) The most interesting pattern here is the relative strength of the Chattanooga region and the Chattanooga-Knoxville corridor. These areas join that of the counties just west of the Nashville MSA in the strength of their export performance.