TAMPA — A local economic development group wants to boost the Tampa Bay area’s exports by $8 billion a year, which could generate up to 40,000 new jobs.
An export study group led by the Tampa Bay Partnership and the Brookings Institution has been researching how the Bay area can improve on its mediocre results in foreign exports. The region exports about $13.3 billion in goods and services, which ranks 26th out of the United States’ 100 most populous metropolitan areas.
More sobering is the region’s 88th place ranking in percentage of its economy tied to exports. Only 7.7 percent of the region’s economic output, or gross regional product, is from exports. By comparison, the average among the top 100 metropolitan areas is 11.9 percent of economic output, the partnership’s study shows.
If the Tampa Bay area could just reach that average, it could increase exports by more than $8 billion a year and create up to 40,000 jobs, Tampa Bay Partnership Chief Executive Officer Stuart Rogel said.
The partnership is promising a long effort to improve its rankings. It is planning a new website to promote Global Tampa Bay, pledging to work with other economic development groups to encourage more businesses to export and beginning a new round of Brookings studies on foreign direct investment.
For now, the area’s biggest source of exports is travel and tourism. The Brookings Institution counts foreigners’ trips to the Tampa Bay area as exports, because — like more traditional exports — the trips serve foreign clients and involve locally originated goods and services. Travel and tourism accounted for about $1.9 billion in exports last year, followed by computer and electronics at $1.7 billion and medical equipment/sporting goods at $1 billion.