September 8, 2022

Texas’ export activity is the gift that keeps on giving

For the 20th consecutive year, Texas tops the list of states for the amount of exports as measured in dollars, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). As of December 2021, Texas exports for the year totaled $375.3 billion, which is above the totals for both 2019 and 2020.

The next three states on the export list weren’t even close:

  • California, $175 billion
  • New York, $84.8 billion
  • Louisiana, $76.8 billion

In other words, Texas’ export total for 2021 was higher than the combined total ($336.6 billion) for California, New York and Louisiana, BEA data shows.

To top that off, Texas led the way for the ninth consecutive year in 2021 as the No. 1 state for tech exports.

While those are impressive numbers, what’s truly impressive is this: Texas exports last year accounted for nearly 1 million jobs, according to the Office of the Texas Governor.

To put all of this into context, exports are a vital cog in the machinery of the Texas economy.

“Made in Texas is a powerful global brand, and the Lone Star State continues to dominate the nation in exports thanks to our unrivaled and productive workforce, robust infrastructure, and welcoming business environment,” Gov. Greg Abbott said.

The state’s No. 1 position in U.S. exports dates all the way back to 2002, when President George W. Bush delivered his first State of the Union address, War Emblem won the Kentucky Derby, “Spider-Man” was the top movie and Gov. Abbott

Among the factors that have contributed to Texas’ 20-year export streak are:

  • A business-friendly regulatory environment.
  • A low tax burden.
  • A strong, established infrastructure and a global logistics network.
  • A high level of collaboration among state and local economic development professionals.

Fortunately, Texas’ export power isn’t concentrated in just one region. In 2020, these were the top Texas metro areas for export activity, as measured by dollar value, according to the International Trade Administration (ITA):

  • Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land: $104.54 billion
  • Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington: $35.64 billion
  • Corpus Christi: $28.78 billion
  • El Paso: $27.15 billion
  • Austin-Round Rock-Georgetown: $13.04 billion
  • Beaumont-Port Arthur: $11.57 billion
  • San Antonio-New Braunfels: $10.99 billion
  • Laredo: $8.76 billion
  • McAllen-Edinburg-Mission: $4.09 billion
  • Waco: $656 million

Adding to Texas’ stature in export activity reported by Tradeology (the official blog of ITA) is that the Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Corpus Christi and El Paso metro areas ranked among the country’s top 15 metro areas for exports in 2020.

Of course, Texas benefits from the presence of several busy ports — ports that manage to weather all sorts of economic storms.

“Even during the coronavirus pandemic, Texas ports stayed in business

So, what is it that other countries get from Texas in the way of goods and services, many of which travel through our ports? The state’s top exports in June 2022 were:

  • Oil and gas/petroleum products
  • Basic chemicals/resin, rubber and fibers
  • Semiconductors/computer equipment
  • Aerospace products
  • Motor vehicle parts

As you can see, Texas derives a lot of export value from our vast natural resources.

But technology plays a key role, too. Aside from integrated circuits (better known as chips or semiconductor wafers), Texas contributes significantly to U.S. exports of tech goods and services. This includes computers, software and telecom services.

“Technology is one sector people don’t often associate with Texas because they tend to associate us primarily with oil and cattle,” said Luis Ribera, a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service economist in Bryan-College Station. “And while those are important to the state and a source of great pride, we manufacture, produce and export of a wide variety of other products and goods needed and desired by consumers worldwide.”

As Mr. Ribera alluded to, Texas still holds tight to its agrarian roots, though.

“Our energy resources and agricultural production are of great importance — not only to the state, but also to the nation and to people throughout the world,” Ribera said. “Texas leads the nation in number of farms and ranches. And the fact that it has so much agricultural production, yet agricultural exports are no longer near the top for contributing to the state’s GDP, shows just how diverse and exceptional the Texas economy has become.”

Many countries around the world recognize how diverse and exceptional Texas is when it comes to being a trade partner. Mexico ranks as the top recipient of Texas exports based on the value of goods and services, followed by Canada, China, South Korea, Brazil, Japan, India, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Taiwan. Those trading partners represent four of the world’s continents.

For a time in the 1800s, Texas was its own country, known as the Republic of Texas. That history serves as a backdrop for what Texas is today: a U.S. and global leader in export activity.

Back in the Republic of Texas days, the “Come and Take It” motto came to symbolize Texas’ quest for independence from Mexico, which now is our biggest trading partner. These days, we dare any other state to come and take our crown as the top state for exports. We won’t give it up without a good fight.