We identify threatened economic sectors as those in which imports are growing rapidly and domestic producers show a flat or declining level in their value of shipments. In other words, imports are taking market share from domestic firms. We anticipate that counties in which a substantial portion of the local economy is found in such industries are the most prone to suffering economic losses due to foreign competition. The maps below show Tennessee counties by the percentage of their manufacturing firms and the percentage of manufacturing employment that is in these industries.
Across most of east Tennessee, there seems to be a rough balance between the size of the import-threatened sector and the size of the growing export sector. In the middle of the state, the position of the export sector is generally stronger than the vulnerability to imports, though some counties have a greater reliance on import-threatened industries. The problem lies in the area of the state between the Memphis and Nashville metropolitan areas, where the substantial vulnerability to import competition that we observe in the maps is not balanced by a sizable competitive export sector. This set of maps reveals this part of the state to be the most threatened going forward. Unfortunately, the upper Cumberland Plateau region today contains so little manufacturing that it is difficult to draw any strong conclusions about it from these maps.
Obviously we are presenting just a crude first cut at this issue, but it's clear that different areas of the state are quite differently positioned to take advantage of America's increasingly internationalized economy. Existing gaps in county income and employment are likely to be exacerbated. This must count as a major challenge for the state as globalization continues.