MONTGOMERY, Alabama – Alabama exports climbed in 2014 to a near-record level, powered by shipments of Alabama-made automobiles to almost 100 countries, as well as rising overseas sales of products such as industrial machines, plastics, and iron and steel.
Alabama’s exports totaled $19.518 billion last year, a gain of nearly 1.2 percent from 2013’s figure, according to data from the U.S. Commerce Department. The 2014 total fell just shy of the state’s annual record for overseas shipments — $19.577 billion, set in 2012.
Alabama-based companies and manufacturing facilities have made significant long-term gains in exporting. Since 2009, Alabama’s exports have risen 57 percent. Over a 10-year period, foreign shipments have advanced 115 percent, figures show.
Alabama-made products were shipped to 194 countries around the world in 2014, highlighting the increasingly global connections of a state that produces a sweeping range of goods from chemicals and metals to aircraft parts and luxury SUVs.
Helping homegrown companies find new markets is a priority for the Alabama Department of Commerce, which led trade and business development missions to Europe, Southeast Asia, and South America during 2014.
“It’s important to see Alabama companies grow through exports because this has great potential to create jobs back here at home,” said Alabama Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield. “Over the years, we’ve seen strong exporting growth, and we expect that trend to continue, which will mean more opportunities for Alabama businesses and more jobs.”
Commerce works to build and foster overseas commercial ties with its partners in the Export Alabama Alliance, a network of international trade agencies and business groups formed in 2004 to create exporting opportunities.
“The activities undertaken by the alliance have proven time after time that we have the professional resources to help small and medium-sized Alabama companies grow and sustain their business through selling overseas,” said Hilda Lockhart, director of Commerce’s International Trade Division.
Canada was the top foreign destination for Alabama-made goods in 2014, with $4.2 billion in shipments, a decline of 1.3 percent from the previous year. China was Alabama’s No. 2 overseas market, with exports jumping 28.4 percent to nearly $3.2 billion last year.
Rounding out the top five in 2014 were Mexico, $2.3 billion (up 5.3 percent); Germany, $2.2 billion (down 3.1 percent); and the United Kingdom: $604,000 (down 12.8 percent). Other top destinations were South Korea, Japan, Brazil, France and Australia.
Once again, motor vehicles and parts Alabama’s top export category in 2014, reflecting a year of record output and continued expansion for the state’s automakers. This has been Alabama’s top export category since 1998, just one year after Mercedes-Benz began producing the M-Class sport utility vehicle at its manufacturing facility in the state.
Here’s the breakdown of the top Alabama export categories in 2014:
- Motor vehicles and parts: $7.3 billion, a gain of 2.1 percent from 2013
- Industrial machinery: $1.6 billion, up 8.6 percent
- Mineral fuel and oil: $1.3 billion, down 15.6 percent
- Iron and steel: $1.1 billion, a rise of 21.9 percent
- Plastics: $993,000, up 10.1 percent
Other top categories in 2014 were organic chemicals, aircraft and aircraft parts, chemical products and electric machinery.
Global exports of Alabama-made vehicles rose 2.8 percent to $6.6 billion in 2014, as vehicles produced in the state were shipped to 99 countries. Here are other details about this key Alabama export segment:
- Canada was the top market for Alabama-made autos, with nearly $2 billion in vehicle shipments
- China was the No. 2 destination, with $1.8 billion in exports, after a 27 percent gain from prior year
- Germany, Mexico and the United Kingdom rounded out the top five foreign markets for Alabama-made autos
- Big increases in auto shipments were recorded to Russia (156 percent gain to $83.2 million in 2014; in 2012, figure was just $50,650), Thailand (89 percent), Uruguay (63 percent), South Korea (54 percent), Colombia (51 percent) and Mexico (21 percent).