Regional Exports on the Rise



Regional Exports on the Rise

October 1, 2014

ROCKFORD, ILLINOIS – Exports from the Rockford Region rose a record 32% in 2013, according to new federal data. The total value of Rockford region exports – $2.53 Billion – is the highest on record, and places Rockford 89th in the nation’s metro areas in exports.

Export growth for the Rockford Region was particularly strong given that U.S. exports only rose 2% in 2013. The Rockford Region had the 37th largest export growth rate in the country in 2013.
Transportation Equipment exports led the way, more than doubling in 2013 to $1 Billion. That sector has been bolstered particularly by the expansion of the Chrysler assembly plant in Belvidere, as well as the growth of aerospace components manufacturers and other transportation equipment components manufacturers.

Most other major manufacturing sectors also saw significant growth, especially Electrical Equipment and Components; Fabricated Metal Products and Computer and Electronic Products.

rockford region exports

“The Rockford Region makes world-renowned products and makes them well,” said Carrie Zethmayr, Executive Director, Trade & Investment, for the Rockford Area Economic Development Council. “Our brands are known globally, whether the customers are motorists, airlines or major equipment manufacturers.”

“Export growth is a key driver of job creation, with an estimated one in five jobs in the U.S. attributed to exports,” Zethmayr stated. “Additionally, companies that export typically pay higher wages.”

The data was compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau and the International Trade Administration, both segments of the Department of Commerce.

A 2013 report by The Brooking Institution found that exports were driving post-recession growth for major metro areas in the U.S. “Metro areas whose export intensity grew fastest experienced higher economic growth.”

“While major companies are leading exporters, small- and mid-sized companies can also greatly expand their exports,” remarked Zethmayr, “By focusing efforts internationally, companies can diversify their customer base and grow during changing economic times. While it may seem daunting to start exporting, there are more resources than ever to help companies start an export program and thrive at it. More and more companies of all sizes are able to sell their products globally, and we want to help the Rockford Region’s companies to continue the trend.”

Companies looking to grow exports should contact Ms. Zethmayr to learn about programs, such as the IL SBDC International Trade Center at the Rockford Area Economic Development Council, to develop effective market penetration strategies, establish cost-effective and efficient supply chain management operations, ensure compliance with trade regulations, and access additional resources to elevate their international trade.

Export growth wasn’t just overseas. Exports to Canada and Mexico from the Rockford Region grew 82% to more than $1 Billion. Exports also grew significantly to Europe and South America.
The Rockford Region export data was analyzed for the Rockford Area Economic Development Council (RAEDC) by the Rockford Region Economic Development District (RREDD), which provides research assistance for Boone and Winnebago county economic development initiatives. More information about RREDD can be found at

The primary role of the Rockford Area Economic Development Council (RAEDC) is to collaboratively enhance wealth creation in the Rockford Region by helping employers retain and create quality jobs. The RAEDC works closely with many partners to learn what existing and new employers need to grow, and to serve as a one-stop resource for clients.  The RAEDC seeks to improve the competitiveness of the region by taking what it learns from the region’s employers, and engaging the community in the daily work of economic development.  

The Illinois SBDC International Trade Center of the Rockford Area is a program that works directly with companies to increase the total value of goods exported from the Rockford Area of Illinois. Services are provided to companies to walk them through the process of establishing and growing an export program. The IL SBDC International Trade Center of the Rockford Area is funded in part by the U.S. Small Business Administration in partnership with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and Rock Valley College.  
Carrie Zethmayr
RAEDC Executive Director – Trade & Investment      



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