Business growth in West: exports

Colorado’s largest cities are large international exporters, but they could do better, and smaller municipalities in the state could benefit, the Brookings Institution said.

The institution today released a study urging that metro areas in the Mountain West look to expand their export businesses as they seek growth opportunities.

The decision by Extra Aircraft LLC to build a manufacturing center in Montrose could serve as an illustration to other Mountain West communities of how businesses, government and research organizations can cooperate to boost exports and prop up local economies, said Jonathan Rothwell, a Brookings Institution senior research analyst.

Extra and Montrose officials on Friday announced the Germany-based company’s plans to build a North American manufacturing facility at Montrose Regional Airport.

Wichita, Kan., has matched its aviation industry with an aviation-research program at Wichita State University, and the Wichita Technology Corp. acts as a nonprofit source of venture capital for businesses there, Rothwell said.

Colorado “could learn some lessons with what the people in Wichita have been doing” and perhaps compete with the Kansas community, Rothwell said.

One of the findings of the Brookings Institution study of Mountain West exports is that more innovative metro areas “are the most export-oriented,” Rothwell said.

The Denver-Aurora-Broomfield and Colorado Springs metro areas have significant export industries, but there is room for improvement, Rothwell said.

Denver annually exports $10.1 billion worth of goods, ranking it 28th among U.S. metro areas., the report said, and Colorado Springs sends out exports worth $1.9 billion, placing it 94th.

“We feel that for too long trade policy has been concerned with exchange rates and tariffs,” Rothwell said. “There are insights to be gained from metro areas” that are making the most of their export potential.

To the extent that government policies can promote innovation, cut transportation costs and otherwise aid businesses, “U.S. exports can grow at a local level,” Rothwell said.

More exports from the state’s large metro areas could have a spillover effect to smaller communities around Colorado, he said.

In many cases, Rothwell said, the largest manufacturers use hundreds of suppliers, “and they can come from anywhere,” including Grand Junction.


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