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Alabama Exports Dip Slightly in 2013 but Auto Shipments Continue to Grow

MONTGOMERY, Alabama — The value of Alabama’s exports fell 1.4 percent in 2013, as declines were seen in shipments of chemicals, machinery and minerals and ores, U.S. trade data shows.

Last year’s $19.3 billion total fell just short of the record $19.57 billion set in 2012. Transportation equipment, including vehicles, remained the state’s top export, growing 8.6 percent to $8.3 billion.

Alabama companies shipped a wide variety of products to nearly 200 counties last year.

Despite sluggish economies in many parts of the world, state businesses continue to expand their exporting activities, said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

The Commerce Department, along with the Export Alabama Alliance, is trying to help small and medium companies find new markets, he said.

“Growing our companies through exports has so much potential to create jobs,” Canfield said in a statement.

Alabama’s auto industry has long fueled state exports, and since 1998, the vehicles and parts from state factories have been the No. 1 export category. Mercedes-Benz accounts for the vast majority of shipments, while Honda and Hyundai export smaller amounts of vehicles.

Related: For the first time, Honda’s U.S. exports surpass imports from Japan

In 2013, vehicles and parts exported from Alabama’s auto plants went to more than 100 countries and topped $7.1 billion in value. That’s a 604 percent growth since 1998.

The steepest decline in last year’s exports was seen in minerals and ores, which fell 22 percent. That’s a reflection of a downturn in the global coal market; coal has historically been a top export for Alabama.

Hilda Lockhart, director of the Commerce Department’s International Trade Division, also noted a sluggish European Union market, which could be affecting the downturn in vehicle shipments there.

And while exports to China increased, it wasn’t as much as trade officials had hoped.

“Things should pick up next year because they have pledged to further balance the trade by importing more raw materials and energy products,” Lockhart said.

Half of the U.S. states saw a decline in exports last year, she added. Alabama ranked No. 23 in the nation for dollar value of exports.

Alabama’s top five export markets in 2013 were: Canada ($4.3 billion), China ($2.5 billion), Germany ($2.2 billion), Mexico ($2.2 billion) and the United Kingdom ($693 million.)

All of those markets grew from 2012, except Germany, where there was a 12 percent decline. That allowed China to move into the No. 2 spot that was previously occupied by Germany.

The state’s top five exports were: transportation equipment ($8.3 billion), chemicals ($2.5 billion), primary metal manufacturing ($1.5 billion), minerals and ores ($1.4 billion) and machinery ($879 million).

February 12, 2014

Dawn Kent Azok | By Dawn Kent Azok |

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