Obama administration report shows S.C. exports topped $29.7 billion in 2014

The majority of South Carolina’s $29.7 billion in exports in 2014 moved through the Port of Charleston

South Carolina businesses exported $29.7 billion worth of goods in 2014 — a 121 percent increase from a decade earlier thanks in large part to transportation manufacturers such as Boeing Co. and BMW, according to a report released Thursday by President Obama and the U.S. Commerce Department.

The report outlines export successes in each of the 50 states including Columbia-based Transfer Point, a woman-owned small business that makes dietary supplements. Exports account for about one-third of the company’s sales, with its products shipped to markets in North America, Europe and Asia.

All told, U.S. companies $2.35 trillion worth of goods in 2014, supporting 11.7 million jobs nationwide. There are 340,000 companies nationwide that export goods, the report states, and 98 percent of them are small- to medium-sized businesses with less than 500 employees.

“From coast to coast, exports have played a critical role in economic growth and creating jobs in America,” said Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker.

Transportation equipment, such as the Dreamliners made in North Charleston and the BMW automobiles made in Greer, accounted for most of South Carolina’s exports in 2014 at $12.1 billion. South Carolina now is the nation’s top exporter of automobiles, with BMWs accounting for $9.2 billion of the state’s export total.

Boeing, which makes the wide-body 787 series of commercial planes at its North Charleston campus, delivered 32 of its Dreamliners to foreign customers in 2014. The company does not disclose deals it makes with individual airlines. Those planes went to countries from Canada to Qatar.

Machinery, chemicals, plastic and rubber products — such as tires — and electrical equipment rounded out the top five.

The state’s top agricultural export last year was poultry, with $206 million worth of goods shipped to other markets.

The report shows 153,816 jobs in South Carolina were tied to exported goods with 5,832 companies sending their products to foreign markets. The majority of those South Carolina exporters — 84.8 percent — were small- to medium-sized businesses.

“In every state across the country, good-paying jobs are tied to ‘Made in America’ exports,” said U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Michael Froman. “This report also tells the story of American small businesses that will benefit from tearing down trade barriers in markets around the globe. This is where we see a lot of opportunity for growth and more trade-supported jobs.”

Froman said there is plenty of room for export growth because most small businesses nationwide don’t take advantage of programs that could help them enter new markets.

“The opportunity is there,” he said. “It’s beckoning us.”

The report is being released at a time President Obama is seeking approval for a pair of free-trade agreements that would cover nearly two-thirds of the global economy. The Trans-Pacific Partnership would include a dozen nations, including the U.S., Japan, Australia, Chile and Mexico. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is a trade pact between the U.S. and the European Union.

“In recent years, countries across the Asia-Pacific have struck more than 200 trade deals, while American workers and businesses have largely missed out,” Pritzker said. “We cannot afford to sit on the sidelines as others strike deals that put our businesses and workers at a competitive disadvantage and encourage a race to the bottom. By moving forward with standards that reflect our interests and values, including the highest labor and environmental protections, we can protect American jobs and catalyze a race to the top.”

Reach David Wren at 937-5550 or on Twitter at @David_Wren_