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Minnesota exports rise 2% to $5 billion in 1Q

Friday, June 13, 2014

Article by Start Tribune

Minnesota’s manufactured exports rose 2 percent to $5 billion in the first quarter, though sales to its two biggest markets faltered.

The uptick alleviated worries that the increasingly critical export market might falter as it did during several months last year.

Sales to Minnesota’s top trading partner, Canada, fell 12 percent to $1.2 billion as orders lagged for mineral fuels, machinery, beverages, ore and vehicle parts, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development said Thursday.

Companies such as ATV and snowmobile maker Arctic Cat recently complained that 30 percent of their revenues were negatively impacted by Canada’s difficult currency exchange rates. Company officials said the problematic currency translation rate was expected to hurt that company for the rest of this year. But it was not clear from the report by DEED if other companies faced similar concerns about Canada.

Minnesota’s second-largest trading partner, China, also bought less during the first quarter. Exports to China fell 2 percent to $523 million.

On the upside, Mexico, Japan, Belgium, Germany, and Australia gobbled up Minnesota goods at a hearty rate, with percentages increasing from 23 to 49 percent from the first quarter of last year.

Mexico, which is Minnesota’s third-largest trading partner, bought $433 million worth of goods, up 49 percent. That increase was driven by an uptick in demand for Minnesota-made machinery, vehicle components and electrical equipment.

Exports have become an increasing part of Minnesota’s economy and helped boost the state’s beleaguered manufacturing sector during the Great Recession and during its recovery.

State and civic leaders have pushed small- and medium-sized businesses to consider selling their goods in other markets and have set up teams to assist them in exploring possible markets abroad. In several cases state officials even set up satellite trade offices in other countries to help Minnesota businesses more easily make connections.

“Minnesota exporters saw strong gains in our traditional markets during the first quarter,” DEED Commissioner Katie Clark Sieben said in a statement. “But they also made headway into newer markets for Minnesota products, with exports growing 11 percent in the Middle East and 16 percent in the Australia-Pacific region.”

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