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NDTO News Article

N.D. export growth rate tops U.S.

Patrick Springer, The Forum

North Dakota led the nation in the growth of exports last year as the state’s global sales topped $2 billion and almost tripled the rate of growth in nationwide exports.

Machinery for the agricultural and construction sectors, and farm commodities drove North Dakota’s exports, figures from the U.S. Department of Commerce show.

A weak dollar, which made U.S. products a better bargain, helped spur exports, but that doesn’t account for the 34 percent boost in North Dakota exports last year, said Heather Ranck, director of the U.S. Commercial Service in North Dakota.

“I definitely think the strong farm markets are driving some of that,” she said, noting that demand for commodities continues to grow. “I think also the strong coordinated effort of state and federal groups has been a part of that.”

The North Dakota Trade Office, a partnership between the state and business organized in 2004, lobbied to bring the U.S. Commercial Service – which promotes export sales – to the state.
North Dakota’s export sales rose $513 million in 2007, up from $1.5 billion the year before, when sales increased 27 percent over the previous year.

Top export destinations included Canada – by far the largest, with sales of $999 million, or 49 percent of the total – followed by Mexico, Belgium, Germany, Russia, Ukraine and Australia.

Ukraine, where a North Dakota trade delegation of 25 people from eight firms recently ventured, has a natural affinity for the state’s products, given the similarities in soils and crops, said Jeff Zent, communications director for the North Dakota Trade Office.

Farm equipment manufacturers from North Dakota recently returned from a trade show in Ukraine, helping to solidify a growing relationship that will translate into more sales, he said.

“The interest was just overwhelming,” Zent said. North Dakota trade delegations recently returned from Cuba, with others in Columbia and Peru, and yet another preparing for a trip to South Korea as the state continues to boost its profile abroad.

Export sales by Trade Office members directly supported 212 jobs and generated $1.8 million in state tax revenue, according to an economic impact study by Regional Economic Models Inc.
Ranck predicts continued growth in exports from deals reached in recent trade campaigns.

“There’s going to be a lot of growth again in 2008, especially related to ag machinery,” she said.