Lake Charles one of state’s leading exporters

By By Eric Cormier / American Press

In 2011, Lake Charles trailed only New Orleans and Baton Rouge in exporting materials on the international market.

According to a report released by the International Trade Administration, an arm of the U.S. Department of Commerce, in that

year, the New Orleans area exported $20.3 billion in goods; Baton Rouge, $4.9 billion; and Lake Charles, $4.2 billion.

David Conner, vice president of economic development and international services at the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development

Alliance, said the Lake Area normally exports merchandise at high levels.

“And that is because of the large petrochemical and chemical manufacturers who reach out to global markets,” he said. “When

we see numbers like this, we realize just how connected to the global market our area is.”

Lafayette’s export totaled $656 million; Shreveport-Bossier City, $366 million; Houma-Bayou Cane-Thibodaux, $338 million;

Monroe, $141 million; and Alexandria, $83.2 million.

According to ITA, in 2012, Louisiana’s exports were $63 billion. China imported the most products from Louisiana companies

— $9.3 billion in 2012.

Louisiana’s most sought after exported goods are petroleum and coal products, which totaled $23.4 billion in 2012. Agricultural

products totaled $19.5 billion; chemical, $8.3 billion; food, $5 billion; and machinery, $1.8 billion.

Conner said the Lake Charles market’s top export products are petroleum and coal products, chemicals, agriculture and food.

The state’s strength in exporting is causing economic development policy wonks to encourage small-business owners to sell

their products around the world.

“Our challenge is to diversify

exporting capabilities. It is part of a national effort. The value is

being able to bring new

money into our economy. So yes, we are concentrating our efforts

to get small- to medium-sized businesses connected with the

same markets corporations are already in,” he said.

Alliance officials have scheduled a training program that will prepare business owners to sell in the international market

on March 26. People interested in attending should call 504-722-7894.

The alliance also will host a world trade conference in Kinder this spring.

“But the public should know that, even

though these numbers are good, this is not due to the economic expansion

that has been

publicized,” Conner said. “We haven’t benefited from the expansion

yet, and that means our current economy is strong and growing

anyway.”