Worldview might save economy

Exports are not the magic potion for reviving the battered Las Vegas economy, but a study being released today by the Brookings Institution suggests that increased exporting would give the city more financial strength.

"You have lost hundreds of thousands of jobs, and international trade is only part of a rebuilt Las Vegas economy," said Mark Munro, policy director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings.

"Should Las Vegas double exports, that would be tens of thousands of jobs in the region," Munro said. "This is an element and part of rebuilding the Las Vegas economy. It's not a panacea or silver bullet."

He made the comments based on information compiled in the Exports West Report about the 10 largest metropolitan areas in the Mountain West region, including Las Vegas.

In its report, the Washington, D.C., think tank noted that Las Vegas exported $7.3 billion in goods and services in 2008, the latest year for which figures are available. That represents 7.7 percent of what the city produces and supports 30,000 jobs, according to the report.

The city generated a larger share of its gross metropolitan product from exports than any other city, according to the report. However, the report defines foreign tourism as one form of export services. The study shows 80 percent of Las Vegas exports come from services and only 20 percent from goods.

Exports employed a "rather meager 3.2 percent of Las Vegas workforce, and one in ten of those export workers were employed in the lucrative tourism industry," the report said.

Munro said the city's familiarity with foreign tourists and conventioneers, however, shows the potential for Las Vegas to expand product exports.

"It proves that the region has the ability to identify markets and go after them," he said.

"Las Vegas is moving rapidly in the direction of becoming a permanent global trade show center," the report said.

Munro referred to President Barack Obama's goal of doubling exports in five years. The analyst said the country needs to focus on exporting because it appears that the nation's economy will have slower growth in the foreseeable future.

Nevada doubled its exports during the five years ending in 2008, said Al DiStefano, director of global business development for the Nevada Commission on Economic Development.

DiStefano said many small manufacturers, however, lack the "nuts and bolts" training needed to navigate through documentation, tariffs and approvals needed to sell products overseas.

He and the University of Nevada, Reno conducted a four-day seminar that provided small companies with the basic information they need to export, but he said his time and budget is limited. He hopes the federal government will give him a block grant that can be used to reduce the $600 fee for the course and enable more small companies to attend a basic export course.

"The crucial issue is education," he said.

DiStefano mentioned one exporter who paid a 100 percent duty on exports to Brazil when he could have legally cut the duty in half by using a different classification for the product.

Southern Nevada manufacturers of medical equipment, electronic measuring equipment, aircraft parts, toys and games are good export candidates, DiStefano said. Many are one- and two-person companies.

"The reason that these people haven't gotten into exporting before is they have absolutely no knowledge of what to do."

Contact John G. Edwards at jedwards or 702-383-0420.