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Export report has Honolulu near bottom

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The value exports contribute to Honolulu’s economy is among the lowest of any metropolitan area in the nation, according to a report that urges local governments to beef up their efforts to develop markets overseas.

Honolulu exported $2.4 billion worth of goods and services in 2008, placing it 84th on the list of the nation’s top 100 metro areas, the Brookings Institution reported yesterday.

Honolulu ranked near the bottom in a number of measures, including exports as a share of a city’s economic output, number of export-related jobs and average wages tied to exports.


$2.4 billion
Rank: 84th

5.2 percent
Rank: 98th

Rank: 91st

The results of the study were not surprising, said Barinna Poon, chairwoman of the Hong Kong Business Association of Hawaii and president of the National U.S. Hong Kong Business Association. Poon helped organize a forum here in May to help local businesses interested in entering the Asia market.

"My viewpoint is that Hawaii businesses need to think more broadly instead of just investing here," Poon said. "To have the economy grow faster, we need more exports. That’s pretty much the way a place like Hong Kong works."

Honolulu’s top export categories were all services, led by tourism, passenger transportation, business, professional and technical services. Merchandise exports that Hawaii is well known for, including deep-sea drinking water and papayas, trailed the top service categories.

Services are also a large and growing component of U.S. exports, accounting for half of the top 10 export categories, the report said.

In the case of travel and tourism, the export data included revenue that companies make from selling goods and services consumed by tourists visiting the U.S.

For example, the money spent by a Japanese tourist for a hotel room or surfing lessons in Waikiki count as an export of tourism services.

The measure where Honolulu ranked the lowest was in the average wage of the city’s top export category: tourism. The report said the $29,979 average wage in Honolulu’s tourism industry ranked 99th among the leading export industries in the 100 metro areas.

Brookings billed the report as the first "comprehensive analysis" of the economic impact of exports at the local level.

"America can and must produce more goods and services for global markets for its prosperity and security," according to a news release from Brookings.

"The nation’s metro areas produce nearly two-thirds of the nation’s exports," said Bruce Katz, vice president and director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings.

"True economic recovery and job growth in America will depend on substantial growth in the amount of goods and services we sell to other nations," he said in the report.

The $2.4 billion worth of goods and services Honolulu exported in 2008 equaled 5.2 percent of the city’s gross metropolitan product, the 98th-lowest percentage of the metro areas surveyed. The 18,218 jobs tied to exports was the 91st-lowest total.

Honolulu’s ranking of 84th on the overall export list put it one spot ahead of the Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, Fla., metro area and one spot behind Harrisburg-Carlisle, Pa.


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