Recent Trends in the Location of Tennessee's Exporters 1st Quarter 2016

Tables and Graphs


The number of Tennessee exporters continues to rise.

In an earlier article we examined the geographical location of the state's exporters. What has changed over the past several years? The number of Tennessee exporters continues to rise. In 2014 the foreign trade division of the Census Bureau identified 7,326 different exporters in Tennessee. That is a 2.5% increase from 2013 and a 7.4% increase from 2010. The number of state exporters has been growing significantly faster than the number of national exporters. In fact, unlike Tennessee, the total number of American exporters actually declined modestly from 2013 to 2014.

The value of exports for an average Tennessee establishment still lags behind the national average, however. Tennessee exporters averaged $4.23 million in the value of their exports in 2014. This is 89.3% of the value of a typical American exporter. Several years ago, this gap appeared to be closing, but that is no longer the case. In 2014, the average Tennessee exporter increased the value of its exports 2.1%, but its national counterpart increased its value by a larger 2.7%.

Geographically the past several years have not seen any significant shifts in where exporters are located. Recall that the exporters are clustered around metro Nashville, extending south through several "automotive" counties, in the corridor from Chattanooga to Knoxville, and around metro Memphis. A smaller concentration is found around Johnson City. This has not changed dramatically. The map here shows the change in the number of exporters in each of Tennessee's five-digit zip codes over the past two years. The one interesting trend is that the central areas of Knoxville, Nashville, and Memphis generally saw declines in the number of exporters, while their immediately surrounding metro areas all saw gains. Note also that the distribution of the "blue" zip codes (the ones that gained exporters) tends to correlate with the location of the state's automotive industry.

There remains, not surprisingly, a huge disparity in exporting across the state. While many zip codes have not a single exporter, four have over 100. Two of them, again probably no surprise, are located near the Memphis airport and the Fedex hub. Four different zip codes picked up 20 or more new exporters in just the past two years. The leader by far was in La Vergne (zip code 37086), where 40 new establishments began exporting. Two of the others were just outside Memphis, and the fourth was a Morristown zip (37814). Somewhat oddly, the zip codes with the largest declines in exporters were located near airports (especially Nashville's).

The best news here is that only really significant trend in the state's exporters over the past several years is that there are more of them. We will drill down into the specific situation of the state's manufacturing exporters in a later issue of Global Commerce.