Sales abroad suffered during the recession but rebounded last year. Among Minnesota's biggest trading partners, only shipments to Ireland declined.
Manufactured exports from Minnesota rose an impressive 17.3 percent to $17.2 billion last year, marking the second-highest annual total on record, thanks to strong sales to Asia and Canada, state officials announced Wednesday.
The results were the best since 2008 and came after "strong growth in all four quarters of 2010," said Mark Phillips, commissioner of the Department of Employment and Economic Development.
Economists have long cheered exports as a key driver for the manufacturing sector, which was hit hard in late 2008 and early 2009 when order books dried up as the recession took hold.
Large Minnesota exporters such as 3M, Pentair and Donaldson Co. delivered double-digit revenue gains in 2010. Demand for their products overseas and the need to replace depleted inventories at their domestic customers helped the manufacturing sector rebound from a tough 2009.
Still, the state trailed the nation as a whole, which saw exports rise 19.8 percent.
Among the states, Minnesota ranked No. 20 in export value, the same as in 2009.
In 2010, exports of Minnesota-made computers, electronics, machinery, transportation equipment and packaged food were particularly robust. Sales of computers and electronics rose 18 percent to $4 billion, followed by machinery (up 23 percent to $3 billion) and transportation equipment (up 29 percent to $2.1 billion).
While most manufacturing industries increased exports last year, textile products and miscellaneous industries declined.
Overall, manufacturing exports proved a sizable force in Minnesota's economy last year, representing more than half the state's $31 billion in combined exports from agriculture, mining, services, manufacturing and other sectors.
Katie Clark, executive director of the Minnesota Trade Office, noted that exporters probably withstand market fluctuations better than domestic-only firms because they have a diversified customer base that extends beyond U.S. borders. Indeed, 3M, Minnesota's biggest manufacturer, generated 65 percent of its $26.6 billion in 2010 sales overseas.
Minnesota's manufactured exports to Canada, Minnesota's largest trading partner, jumped 21 percent to $4.6 billion last year.
China had the largest gain, rising 45 percent to $1.8 billion. Manufactured exports to Japan rose 26 percent to $930 million, while shipments to Mexico rose 26 percent to $836 million. Exports to Germany increased 12 percent to $727 million. Ireland, once one of the state's top trading partners, saw exports drop 52 percent to $431 million.
Of the gains, Asia had the strongest showing of any continent. It received $5.7 billion worth of goods from Minnesota factories.
Together, Canada and Mexico in North America made for Minnesota's second-largest regional market with nearly $5.5 billion in combined exports. Europe received $3.9 billion. Central and South America proved the smallest market with $774 million in Minnesota exports.
Dee DePass 612-673-7725