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Exports play key role in economic health of area

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FOR many local manufacturers, exports — as close as Canada and as far as Japan — mean big business.

Cummins Inc. sells fuel systems produced at the plant on National Road to joint venture partner Scania in Sweden.

Some engines produced at the Columbus Midrange Engine Plant near Walesboro are shipped to Canada and Mexico.

NTN Driveshaft exports constant velocity joints to Europe, Canada and Japan.

In 2011, Columbus businesses exported nearly $1 billion worth of goods and services. The Columbus Metropolitan Statistical Area, which is the whole of Bartholomew County, exported about $12,700 worth of goods per capita, ranking 20th out of 351 MSAs in the nation.

The data, provided by the Census Bureau and the International Trade Administration, also show that Kokomo, thanks to its heavy presence of Chrysler manufacturing plants, ranked 10th in the nation, with per capita exports of $15,256. Peoria, Ill., home to Cummins rival Caterpillar Inc., ranked second ($39,958), behind Decatur, Ill. ($83,700), home to global food processor Archer Daniels Midland and sizable operations of Caterpillar and Britain-based agribusiness Tate & Lyle.

Cummins last year exported from southern Indiana goods worth about $563 million, nearly 19 percent of the company’s total exports that year.

That includes fuel systems being shipped from Columbus to Sweden and high-horsepower engines from Seymour all over the world, including Europe, India and China, said Cummins spokesman Jon Mills. The recently launched QSK95, for example, will power locomotives in Toronto.

“Other products from our other facilities are shipped to markets all over the world, including China, Korea, India, Mexico, Brazil and Canada,” Mills said.

NTN Driveshaft, which employs about 1,300 at its campus in Woodside Industrial Park, ships about 5 percent of its products to Canada to support North American automakers, said Barry Parkhurst, vice president of administration. About 4 percent of the company’s products made in Columbus are shipped to Japan, where NTN’s parent company is based.

The local operations also recently began shipping auto parts to Europe.

Lots of car makers are switching to global platforms, meaning they want to offer the same cars in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere. That means they also want to get the same parts in Europe as they do in the U.S.

“We need to be able to support that by exporting,” Parkhurst said.

Exports support an estimated 50 of NTN’s jobs in Columbus, Parkhurst said, so exports are important.

“It could increase, especially the European market,” Parkhurst said.

Michael Oakes, MBA director and senior lecturer in finance at IUPUC, said having global players helps local economies.

“It’s that production for global markets that really matters,” Oakes said.

Some of those global players, car makers, for example, may be net importers of parts and components for assembly in the U.S., he said, “but engines, car seats, forklifts, and wheels that might supply manufacturers all over the world, as well as here in the States, helps support exports.”

Mark Cooper, of the Indianapolis U.S. Export Assistance Center, a government agency that is part of the Department of Commerce and helps U.S. businesses increase their exports, said Columbus’ export figures are recovering from a recession-induced dip.

The machinery manufacturing sector generated more than 60 percent of the exports from Columbus. In 2011, that sector produced exports of nearly $616 million, up nearly 32 percent from 2010 — though still below the $814 million from 2008. The second-most-important export industry in Columbus, transportation equipment manufacturing, accounted for about 31 percent of total exports in 2011. That sector has seen significant growth in the past few years. Though exports in that sector dipped from $228 million in 2007 to $153 million in 2009, it has nearly doubled since then to nearly $305 million.

“That number is a pretty impressive number,” Cooper said.

The dynamics in Columbus are reflecting those in the state, he said, where exports are seeing steady growth. With about $34 billion in exports, Indiana ranks 13th among the states.

“We’re seeing some good signs,” Cooper said.

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