Exporting fuels regional economy

Over the past four years, the seven-county Milwaukee region grew at a healthy 1.9 percent average annual growth rate. What’s interesting about that growth is that 80 percent of it came from a growth in exports.

When we look at the data for each of our counties, it’s apparent that every county’s economic growth depends more on export growth than domestic growth. For Racine County and Milwaukee County, economic growth is entirely dependent upon growth in exports.

Exports are key to our existing economy. With the U.S. share of the global economy shrinking, our ability to grow will depend upon our ability to grow our international transactions — primarily exports of goods and services.

With that in mind, the M7, along with the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, applied to the Brookings Institution to be included in its Global Cities Initiative.

Launched in Los Angeles in March 2012, the Global Cities Initiative is a five-year project of Brookings and JPMorgan Chase aimed at helping the leaders of metropolitan America strengthen their regional economies by becoming more competitive in the global marketplace. GCI is built on the concept that the global economy is a network of metropolitan economies which are home to most of the world’s population, production, finance, and sources of innovation. Combining Brookings’ deep expertise in fact-based, metro-focused research and JPMorgan Chase’s longstanding commitment to investing in cities, this initiative:

  • Helps U.S. city and metropolitan leaders better leverage their global assets by unveiling the economic starting point of their communities on such key indicators as advanced manufacturing, exports, foreign direct investment, freight flow, and immigration.
  • Provides these leaders with proven, actionable ideas for how to expand the global reach of their economies, building on best practices and policy innovations from across the nation and around the world.
  • Creates an international network of leaders from global cities intent upon deepening global trade relationships.

The big goal is to double exports in five years. In the M7 region we’ve just kicked off the initiative with a market assessment consisting of an online survey followed-up by interviews and focus groups of key industry leaders. The market assessment will form the foundation for developing our export strategy later this year, followed by a series of implementation steps.

The Global Cities Initiative will enable us to put in place new tools and strategies to leverage the power of our local economy to lift the region and provide an incremental 16 percent in revenues. It is what author Jim Collins calls a Big Hairy Audacious Goal, but one we must achieve.

Bill Burnett is vice president of export services for Milwaukee 7 and director of the Global Cities Initiative.

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