Where the Exporters Are:
Trends in County-Level Activity
Since the mid-1990s, the number of exporters has increased by 70%. Are there any patterns to their location?
Tennessee exports have more than tripled since the mid-1990s. The number of exporters has increased by 70% over that period. Let's examine the geographic location of these exporters within the state. Are there any trends or patterns to this location over the past 15 years or so? We can answer this question using county-level data from manufacturers' directories.
It is no surprise that most exporters are sited in the state's major metro areas. This is as true in 2010 as it was in 1995. If there is any story here, it is the continuing rise of Hamilton County as a major epicenter of state exporting activity. At current trends, it may well have more exporters than any other state county in just a few years.
However, probably of greater interest than this simple count is a look at the state's counties adjusting for their economic size, comparing across counties the percentage of establishments that are exporting. This will allow us to examine the performance of a county based on its own size rather than against far larger neighbors.
Mapping county performance clearly shows that export activity is not evenly distributed across the state. Several regions stand out as export intensive. The corridor from Chattanooga to Knoxville, the peripheral counties around Nashville, and the area from Morristown to the Tri-Cities all have a significantly larger percentage of exporters than the rest of the state. The flip side is a relative dearth of exporters from rural counties.
If we break the state into large urban (metropolitan) counties, small urban (micropolitan) counties, and rural counties, we find that establishments in rural counties are substantially less likely to be exporting. Small and large urban counties have about the same percentage of exporters, though the larger counties are more likely to exhibit a percentage that exceeds the state average. But manufacturers in rural counties are only about three-fourths as likely to be exporting as their urban counterparts.