by Kurt Metzger, Director
The August/September issue of Global Trade Magazine features a story on the Top 50 Cities for Global Trade. They describe it as “really two rankings in one. The overall ranking lists the 50 largest metropolitan areas  by export volume” along with “a set of superlative rankings selected by the editors at Global Trade.”
I am happy to report that, not only did the Detroit-Warren-Livonia metropolitan area rank #4 among the fifty in volume of trade ($44 billion) – one of those good news items we are always searching for – we also received the superlative of most improved!
The magazine summed up our global footprint as the following:
The International Trade Administration’s report on the highest-volume exporters by metropolitan areas showed that Detroit exports exploded by 55 percent during 2009 and 2010, the best growth rate in the country according to the most recent data available. Detroit sends a whopping 71 percent of its exports to North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) countries, and—as expected—transportation equipment topped the list of the city’s exports, with $28.8 billion, or 66 percent of its $44 billion total export volume. The second spot was claimed by machinery with 9 percent. Respectable, but a footnote by comparison. Three of Michigan’s 20 Fortune 500 companies hail from Detroit, with General Motors ranking highest at the fifth spot on the prestigious list. Livonia adds another with TRW Automotive Holdings, which surely lends to the high percentage of the area’s auto exports. It’s also interesting to note that, despite being able to hit Canada with a stick thrown from Detroit, Mexico stands as Detroit’s leading export market, outpacing our northern neighbors by about $700 million.
This article was certainly good news for metro Detroit, but it reminded me of the need for Data Driven Detroit and the larger Detroit community to tell Detroit’s story ourselves. That’s something that we’ve been trying to do through our One D Scorecard. It began as a component of the One D collaborative, but maintenance of the Scorecard has persisted even after the collaborative has run its course. While we continue to look for sponsors to support data collection and interactive web development for the Scorecard, we also look for partners who are interested in using its data to aid the Detroit region.
We have divided our data across five major topic areas or “buckets” – Educational Preparedness, Economic Prosperity, Quality of Life, Social Equity, and Regional Transit. Within each is a set of indicators (which we are always interested in expanding) which provide rankings and downloadable data sets. When possible, we compare the 9-county Detroit CSA with the other 53 largest metropolitan areas in the country. In some cases, we are working with the 6-county MSA and, when necessary, occasionally we can get no smaller than the State of Michigan against all other states. Our goal is to expand the geography to county level and city of Detroit, where appropriate.
International Trade and Exports is one of the metrics we have been following in the Economic Prosperity section. Looking at the trend for the Detroit-Warren-Livonia metropolitan area since 2005 (the earliest year available), one can see the effect that the auto industry has on our export success, and clearly understand why Global Trade gave us the medal for Most Improved. The 2010 rebound brought us back to a level just below that in 2006 (when one adjusts 2006 to 2010 dollars).
Tracking the metro area’s export volume as a share of the state’s total finds that Detroit’s share was highest (74 percent) in 2006 and had fallen to 64.4 percent in 2009. The rebound in 2010 brought us back to 70.4 percent.
With our volume being relatively constant, our ranking among metros has been so as well. We ranked 4th in 2005, behind New York, Houston and Los Angeles (as we are in 2010), fell to 5th behind Seattle in 2006, stayed there for 2007 and 2008, and then dropped to sixth in 2009 as Miami-Ft. Lauderdale passed us momentarily.
As the article said, Detroit’s top partner in 2010 was Mexico with exports of $15.9 billion. Detroit led all metros in exports to Mexico. We also led all others in shipments to Canada, but the total was just below that for Mexico – $15.2 billion.
There is more where that came from. Help us build the OneD Scorecard together. We value all contributions – whether they are ideas, data or dollars
 Once again, we see the proclivity of publications (Forbes is always guilty) of describing their work as a ranking of cities when they are actually looking at metropolitan areas. In our case we are talking about the City of Detroit vs. the much larger 6-county (Lapeer, Livingston, Macomb, Oakland, St. Clair and Wayne) area. In many metropolitan areas, the difference between geographic, population and business dynamics is even greater than Detroit’s.