Cars, planes and tires driving SC export jobs
Source: Greenville Online
April 9, 2015
New federal figures reveal the massive size of the export platform created by the combination of the BMW plant in Greer and the port of Charleston — and the role it has played in making South Carolina a leading state for international trade.
The value of all South Carolina manufacturing exports soared 80 percent between 2009 and 2014, to $29.7 billion, according to the data from the U.S. Commerce Department.
More than 30 percent of the total was $9.2 billion worth of BMW cars made in Greer and shipped overseas through the port of Charleston, according to figures from the Commerce Department and BMW.
The value of South Carolina's motor vehicle exports grew more than $5 billion over the five-year period, more than any other export category.
The No. 2 and No. 3 top growth categories were aerospace products and parts, a federal classification that includes commercial airliners made by The Boeing Co. in North Charleston, and rubber products, which includes tires made by Greenville-based Michelin North America and other tire makers at a growing number of plants across South Carolina.
The value of South Carolina's exports of aerospace products and parts grew from $124 million in 2009 to more than $1.4 billion in 2014, the figures show.
Rubber products grew from $1.3 billion at the beginning of the period to more than $2 billion by 2014.
The data also suggest that exports of electricity-producing turbines made by General Electric Co. in Greenville remained strong though didn't grow as much in dollar value.
The value of the export category that includes the turbines — engines, turbines and power transmission equipment — was $2.6 billion in 2014, second-highest in the state behind motor vehicles, and up $453 million over the five-year period.
The surge in exports has been accompanied by a surge in the number of export-related jobs, according to the Commerce Department.
The agency says manufacturing exports supported 153,816 South Carolina jobs in 2014, up 38 percent since 2009.
That made South Carolina the No. 4 state for growth in jobs related to goods exporting.
Joseph Von Nessen, a research economist at the University of South Carolina's business school, said the numbers show South Carolina is engaged in world trade to a greater extent than many other states.
It's "really becoming an international presence for manufacturing," he said.
Four industries — automotive, aerospace, power equipment and tires — are the "major generators of export activity" in South Carolina, Von Nessen said.
More than 70 percent of the 364,000 luxury cars that BMW made at its Greer plant last year were shipped overseas, making the plant the No. 1 U.S. automotive exporter, the carmaker has said.
BMW makes the X3, X4, X5 and X6 for worldwide sale at the plant and has announced plans to make the X7 there.
A $1 billion expansion announced last year will give the plant more manufacturing capacity than any other BMW plant. Volume is set to hit 450,000 cars a year by the end of 2016.
The Obama administration is releasing state-by-state data highlighting the value of international trade as it prepares to ask Congress for expanded authority to conclude a free-trade agreement between western and Asian nations.
The proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership would cover 12 nations that together account for nearly 40 percent of the global economy and one-third of global trade, according to the administration.
They are the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.