Study shows importance of exports in economy

Posted: Sunday, September 26, 2010

International exports are bringing new dollars into the state and are among the primary economic drivers propelling Alaska's fortune, said the experts who put together a recent study on exports.

According to "The Economic Impact of International Exports on the Alaskan Economy," prepared by Northern Economics for World Trade Center Alaska and published in July, Alaska ranks sixth in the nation when it comes to the value of state exports on a per-capita basis.

Per person, the value of exports in Alaska is $4,660, according to the report. Washington, the state with the highest per-capita value, sees $7,764 worth of export value per person.

Without the per-capita qualifier, Alaska ranks 40th, according to the report, bringing in more than $3.2 billion in 2009.

However, Patrick Burden, president of Northern Economics, said he believes this understates the value of Alaska exports, given the state's relatively small population.

Alexus Bond, a staff consultant who worked on the study, believes another important takeaway is that despite how independent Alaskans may think the state is, its trade relationship with other countries is crucial to its economic success.

"We consider ourselves our own place, our own entity. It's important to draw people's attention to what's going out of the state and into other countries," she said.

In collecting data on exports, the researchers looked at seafood, energy, precious metals and minerals, and forest products.

The only important industry overlooked, Burden said, was tourism.

"If we look at the list of sectors that we've identified, tourism is about the only one that's not on here, which is one of the best sectors in the state," Burden said.

He said bringing international visitors to Alaska is like exporting the wildlife and scenic vistas, and tourism has long been known as a major source of economic stimulus for the state. However, Burden said, good data on international visitors is tough to find.

Of the four industries closely studied, seafood exports created the most jobs in 2008, with 13,715 directs jobs 7,797 indirect jobs.

The export of precious metals and minerals created 2,222 jobs in the same period, according to the study, with 937 of them direct and 1,285 indirect. Energy created 136 direct jobs and 497 indirect ones, and forestry created 153 direct and 236 indirect jobs.

In total, 14,940 direct jobs and 9,814 indirect jobs came to a total of 24,755 jobs created by those four export markets in 2008, the study stated.

The total economic output of seafood exports in 2008 was more than $3.5 billion, the report stated. Precious metals and minerals generated $1.2 billion in economic output that year, while energy generated $613 million. Forest products generated $140 million in output.

The study did not ignore goods that don't fall into those four categories. Merchandise, goods returned to Canada, machinery, computer and electronic products, apparel and other miscellaneous products also were examined.

"Each year there are millions of dollars worth of exports attributed to Alaska that are not part of the state's major exporting industries," the report said.

Some $351 million of value was generated in 2008 thanks to these other exports, though there was a dip to $222 million in 2009, according to the report.

The report also acknowledged that the service sector provides services to other countries, but a lack of reported information specifically in state makes it difficult to pare that down.

"It is known that a number of Alaska companies in the construction, architecture and engineering, and oil and gas services sectors provide services to clients in other countries, but the identities of the Alaska firms and the value of the services that are exported are not reported," according to the report.

• Sean Manget can be reached at

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