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At $2.85b through July, state's exports on record pace

By MICHAEL COUSINEAU
New Hampshire Union Leader

September 24. 2017 1:01AM
Workers sort freshly milled boards coming off a conveyor at Northland Forrest Products in Kingston on Friday. Northland exported hardwood lumber to 19 countries last year, accounting for about half its total sales. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

Exports from New Hampshire were up nearly 22 percent for the first seven months of this year, and are on pace to break a yearly record.

Overall, the state's exports totaled $2.85 billion through July, compared to $2.34 billion during the same time frame in 2016.

From January through July, New Hampshire companies shipped $130 million more in goods and commodities to Ireland, $108 million more to China and $96 million more to Japan than a year ago.

"They want to be competitive internationally, and they're finding there's more and more opportunities for them," said Tina Kasim, program manager for the state Office of International Commerce.

She said it was too soon to say whether the state would break its yearly export record of $4.23 billion in 2014.

Shawn Malcuit grades white oak boards coming at him on a conveyor at Northland Forrest Products in Kingston on Friday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

"We may be at a record pace now," she said. "It may all of a sudden stop next month."

Firms shipped $123.3 million worth of pharmaceutical products to Ireland this year, compared to $29 million during the first seven months of 2016, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. For all of 2016, New Hampshire companies shipped more than $159.4 million to Ireland, including $127.6 million of chemicals.

The Census Bureau doesn't identify the individual companies.

Through July, Granite State companies exported $101.7 million of electrical machinery, such as sound and television equipment, to China compared to $16.9 million a year ago.

Canada remains the state's best exporting destination, though China is within $41 million. Electrical machinery was the top commodity at nearly $902 million so far this year.

According to the U.S. International Trade Administration, exports supported 18,281 New Hampshire jobs in 2015. That's about the population of Goffstown.

Dover economist Brian Gottlob said several factors are at play.

"Overall, a world economy that has shown solid if not exceptional growth," he said in an email. "More countries are in better shape economically and fiscally, and (there are) fewer crises (although there are always some) that disrupt trade or create uncertainty that pauses economic activity."

Currency value also plays a key role.

"As or more importantly for exports has been the decline in the value of the dollar relative to the currencies of our major trading partners," Gottlob said. "When the value of the dollar is high relative to the currencies of our trading partners it makes U.S. (New Hampshire) goods more expensive for other countries and the opposite is true when the value of the dollar weakens."

Last year, Kingston-based Northland Forest Products shipped its hardwood lumber to 19 countries, including Europe, China and Japan, accounting for half of the company's overall sales.

"As the global exports of U.S. hardwoods has grown, our company has been able to seek growth in exports along with that and see it as a strategic part of our business," Scott Seyler, vice president of international sales, said Friday.

"It grew from 2015 to 2016 right around 2 percent, and we're expecting to continue to grow this year," he said.

Seyler said a weaker U.S. dollar "allows the export business to remain stable for us."

Ryon Couture bundles a load of walnut lumber destined for China at Northland Forrest Products in Kingston on Friday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

Northland employs 65 workers, including 31 in Kingston. A section of its website is written in Chinese and Japanese.

Kasim's office is able to tap a federal program - the State Trade Export Promotion (STEP) program - through the Small Business Administration.

"STEP provides financial awards to state and territory governments to assist small businesses with export development," according to the U.S. Small Business Administration's website. "This program's mission is to increase the number of U.S. Small Business exporters and increase their export sales."

This month, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., announced the state will receive $267,866 for STEP.

STEP financial support helps small businesses learn how to export, participate in foreign trade missions and trade shows, obtain services to support foreign market entry, develop websites to attract foreign buyers, and design international marketing products or campaigns, according to the government website.

Northland received a $1,000 grant last year to help pay for an executive to travel abroad and identify potential new customers.

This year, the company received a $6,000 matching grant to attend a global furniture industry conference in Germany.

That exposure will help "keep our markets diversified," Seyler said.

mcousineau@unionleader.com


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