Maryland's exports climb

Transport gear, electronics, chemicals led rise in last year's tally to $7.6 billion

March 03, 2007|By Jamie Smith Hopkins | Jamie Smith Hopkins,Sun reporter

The value of goods exported from Maryland rose to $7.6 billion last year, an increase of more than 50 percent in five years - and a sign that manufacturing is expanding, even though the number of people doing the work keeps falling.

The state Department of Business and Economic Development, which reported the numbers yesterday, said top exports are transportation equipment; computers and electronic products; chemicals; and non-electrical machinery.

Goods exported rose in value 7 percent from 2005, according to the state, which calls last year's total a record. But the numbers are not adjusted for inflation. With that taken into account, values rose 3.4 percent last year and 34 percent since 2001.

Northrop Grumman Corp., whose Electronic Systems Sector is based in Linthicum, exports radar and electronic warfare systems from Maryland. A quarter of that business unit's sales are to international customers, which makes it one of the largest local exporters.

"It's been a good environment and a good geographic location to perform from," said Scott Porter, vice president for global field marketing with Electronic Systems, which employs about 9,000 in Maryland.

Canada receives more of Maryland's exports than any other country - nearly $1.5 billion. Other top importers of Maryland goods are spread across the world, from Egypt to Germany to China.

Businesses exporting from plants or other facilities in the state sent goods to more than 200 countries, the economic development agency said.

But Maryland is far from a major exporter, as states go. It's ranked 31st nationwide. Texas and California topped the list in 2006, each with more than $100 billion.

Maryland's increase last year also paled compared with the nation's, which saw a rise in export values of 15 percent. But the state's five-year increase was better than the national average.

Products `relevant'

Daraius Irani, director of applied economics at RESI, Towson University's research and consulting arm, thinks the state's performance is still notable. Despite the long loss of manufacturers and manufacturing jobs here, Maryland continues to make products that "are relevant in the world," he said.

The state economic development agency believes it is due part of the credit for rising exports. Its efforts include opening offices in China and India in the past year and a half, bringing its total in other countries to 11.

"They're a good resource," said Northrop's Porter, who said his company's international field offices interact with the state's.

Missile launcher

Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin Corp., another defense contractor, is a major exporter as well. The MK 41 Vertical Launching System, a missile launcher made in Middle River in Baltimore County, "is sold internationally to allied navies," said Tom Greer, a Lockheed spokesman.

About 15 percent of the company's annual revenue come from international sales - more than $5 billion last year. But only the goods exported from Lockheed facilities in Maryland count toward the state's total, and much of the company's local work stays local, Greer said. Its key customer is the federal government.

jamie.smith.hopkins@baltsun.com

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