A group of companies based in Nevada found a way to make money during the recession: Don't do business here.
Exports among Nevada businesses surged to a record $1.54 billion in the first quarter of 2009, jumping 6 percent, or $85.7 million, compared with the same quarter a year earlier, according to new numbers from the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Nevada Commission on Economic Development.
Just two other states -- Mississippi and Oklahoma -- posted first-quarter gains in exports. The nation as a whole saw a decline of 22.3 percent, or $71 billion, in exports in the same quarter.
Al Di Stefano, director of global trade and investment for the economic development commission, said the boom resulted from several factors, including sustained worldwide demand for gold, a surge in requests for aircraft parts in Thailand and a spike in orders for prefabricated buildings and construction equipment in the Middle East.
The rise in exports points to the benefits of diversifying customer bases, Di Stefano said. Even as gross domestic product shrinks in the United States, economies in South America and Asia continue to expand, he noted.
"For companies that export, there are some big markets out there," Di Stefano said. "If you're not participating in the global economy, you're going to be left out. Companies that are only domestic, or that are Nevada-oriented, are seeing their business drop or are going out of business. Competitors engaged in the global economy are still growing."
Take Chromalloy, a Carson City manufacturer that makes and refurbishes airplane parts. Chromalloy almost single-handedly drove a 470 percent boost in Nevada-based exports of aircraft components in the first quarter, Di Stefano said. Nevada businesses exported $58 million in aircraft parts 2008, but they sold $40 million in plane parts in 2009's first quarter alone.
In sheer dollar volume, gold still reigns as the Silver State's biggest export. The precious metal, for which exports were up 27 percent in the first quarter, was responsible for 58 percent of Nevada's export sales in the period. That's up from gold's standard 49 percent share, Di Stefano said. He credited the larger proportion of gold exports to factors such as changes in prices and demand.
Nevada businesses exported to 141 countries in the first quarter, with six of the state's 10 largest export markets showing growth in the period. If export expansion continues through 2009, it'll be the seventh consecutive year of increases.
A few countries that haven't traditionally done big business with Silver State firms advanced the share of Nevada goods they bought in the first quarter.
Thailand's aircraft-parts orders helped the country leap from Nevada's No. 23 export market to No. 6, with an overall purchase increase of 383 percent. Thanks to those prefab-building buys, the United Arab Emirates vaulted from No. 40 to No. 20, with a 390 percent increase year-over-year in the dollar volume it spent here. Saudi Arabia went from No. 35 to No. 30 because of construction-equipment purchases, and South Africa improved from No. 24 to No. 16. China has become the state's second-largest export market for food preparations, and its fourth largest for beverages.
Switzerland continues to rank No. 1 on the strength of its gold buys.
Exports are important to Nevada's economy not just for the revenue they bring to the state, but because they spur growth of high-paying jobs, Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, chairman of the Nevada Commission on Economic Development, said in a statement.
Nevada has about 86,000 export-related jobs, and those jobs pay 17 percent more on average than their domestic-centered counterparts, Krolicki said.
Contact reporter Jennifer Robison at email@example.com or 702-380-4512.