How Pittsburgh Can Grow -- Internationally
With regional leaders on a multi-day visit to Europe, it's worth asking: How important is the international economy to jobs in Pittsburgh, and what is the potential for growth?
The answers: very, and significant.
The Pittsburgh Region exported over $8 billion in goods internationally in 2006. That's the 20th highest level among the top 40 regions, and 21st on a per capita basis. On a per capita basis, we export more goods internationally than Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, and Philadelphia.
Even better news is that exports from the Pittsburgh Region grew by 20% between 2005 and 2006 -- that's the 14th highest increase among the top 40 regions. That's a bigger increase than Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, or Silicon Valley.
What are we exporting? The dominant exporters are our traditional industries --coal, steel, and chemicals account for more than half of regional exports. But our technology sector is also an important contributor -- nearly 9% of exports are computer and electronic products. Although the growth in exports from those businesses is below the regional average (15.7% between 2005 and 2006, compared to 20% region-wide), that growth rate was almost double the growth rate in Silicon Valley.
Where are we exporting? Our largest trading partner is Canada, followed by Mexico. China is currently the destination for only 6.7% of our exports, and that has been growing slower than other countries. In fact, our 15% growth in exports to China between 2005 and 2006 was one of the smallest of major regions -- for example, exports to China from Cleveland, Houston, Kansas City, and Minneapolis increased by 20-33% in the same time period. With the rapid growth in the Chinese economy, this is a critical area for our region to focus international trade efforts on.
Our strength in exports reflects our strength in manufacturing. In order to import dollars from other countries, one has to have something that those countries want to buy. And while we do sell many services to people from other countries, including things like architecture, health care, and consulting services, our manufacturing (and mining) sectors are the primary sources for bringing foreign dollars into our economy. That's another reason to make sure our business climate for manufacturing is as competitive as possible.