State rises to 35th among top exporters

Mississippi's third straight year of record-setting annual exports has pushed the state from the 39th largest exporter in the country to 35th, according to figures released by the Mississippi Development Authority.

And chief results of the half-billion dollar jump may be high-paying jobs, an international trade association director said.

Exports for 2006 totaled $4.67 billion, nearly a 17 percent increase from 2005. Values for 2005 were up 26 percent from 2004. They've been up since 2003.

"We figure two supporting jobs are created for every one exporting job. The support service sector includes freight forwarders, accounting, banking and insurance," said Barbara Travis, executive director of the Mississippi World Trade Center. "They're all high-skills jobs that require higher education levels."

Travis' organization acts as a referral, resource and education center to encourage more Mississippi companies to trade internationally. More than 840 companies in the state do so already.

She expects more export growth this year and beyond.

"Global interaction has continued to grow even through difficult times. You look at 2005 after Hurricane Katrina, and we did well afterward. On the global scale, you've had war and SARS, and trade still keeps growing," she said.

Topping the products list again were vehicles - the result almost entirely of the Nissan plant in Canton. Nissan has thousands of workers who are directly involved with making vehicles for export.

Workers there produced 278,000 vehicles last year and exported 15,904. Although the $729 million in vehicles exported was down from 2005's high of $738 million, Nissan's value was still $170 million more than the second leading export, electrical machinery.