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WASHINGTON, DC — U.S. exports will be a key driver to our nation’s recovery from the Great Recession, especially in smaller metro areas, said Mayors and urban experts today at a policy session forum during the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) annual winter meeting here. “Exports are and will be key to the nation’s economic recovery, especially in smaller metro areas where exports are a higher percentage of gross metropolitan product. We need to maximize their potential growth and figure out what else we can do to get U.S. products abroad,” said Jacksonville, FL Mayor Alvin Brown, Chair of the Metro Exports and Ports Task Force, who led the forum, along with Minneapolis, MN and Vice Chair Mayor R. T. Rybak. A report, unveiled by USCM President and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Wednesday, looked at export values and their percentage of the gross metropolitan product (GMP) for each of the nation’s 363 metro areas as well as detailed projected economic growth and job creation. A copy of the report can be obtained at www.usmayors.org. The 2012 U.S. Metro Economics report found that export merchandise value increased in 300 metro areas, expanded by over 50% in 168 metros, and doubled in 70 metros from 2005 to 2008. Over the past two decades, the merchandise value of manufactured exports in the U.S. has tripled, reaching $1.28 trillion in 2010, or 8.8% of GDP — up from 6.9% in 1990. It also showed that the largest metros are top exporters (see figure 5 of the report), with the 20 biggest metro economies comprising 50% of the total U.S. share. Out of the top 15 metro export/GMP ratios, only three are among the 100 largest metro areas (see figure 6). International trade encourages specialization and economies of scale, which is more pronounced in smaller metros, which tend to focus on one or two types of export products. For example, Peoria, Illinois and Davenport, Iowa, the headquarters of Caterpillar and John Deere, respectively, rely on machinery for the bulk of their exports. In the Kingsport-Bristol (TN) metro, exports are nearly 60% as large as GMP, followed by Peoria with 51.6%. “The report confirms what the nation’s mayors already know. Manufactured exports have been one of the few fiscal bright spots as we recover from the economic downturn,” said Mayor Rybak. Over 250 Mayors have convened in the nation’s Capitol to urge Congress to invest in cities and stop cutting and stalling economic initiatives, such as the Community Development Block Grant program and the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act. USCM CEO & Executive Director Tom Cochran said that as Congress, the White House and the Presidential hopefuls “echo the public’s cry for jobs, jobs, jobs they would do well to better understand that there is still a robust and ever-increasing need for goods and services that are made in – and exported from the U.S.A.” During the forum, Mayor Brown called for the creation of a national trade policy that focuses on ensuring that our ports are ready to compete with those being modernized globally, including the Suez Canal Expansion projects and many smaller, but equally global import/exports lanes expected to open soon. Mayor Rybak stressed that a global environment dictates that goods must be moved as cost-efficiently and effectively as possible. Both Mayors noted that the need to increase attention to city infrastructure has long been a primary mission of mayors in cities large and small. The metropolitan areas that are home to our nation’s ports are especially in need of immediate attention to plan and deliver road and transport systems that cut down on congestion and spur movement of products to and from ports.