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Exports fuel business growth in St. Joseph

Exports fuel business growth in St. Joseph

St. Joseph’s location in the middle of the country hasn’t stopped the city’s industries from tapping export markets across the globe.

A recent report shows the city achieved $1 billion in exports, confirming the third spot in the state, only behind St. Louis and Kansas City. According to a report by Garner Economics, continued growth from local companies fueled export sales that trailed only St. Louis, with $8.9 million, and Kansas City, with $6.7 billion.

In a 2017 statement, St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce President Patt Lilly said the figures illustrate the importance of global trade on the local economy.

“As I like to say, St. Joseph is a community that makes things,” he said. “In fact, based on the recent data, 18 percent of the community’s gross domestic product (GDP) is made up of export products, the highest in our region of the country.”

He said that in the last five years, St. Joseph’s exports have grown 56 percent.

The export growth comes at a time when some of St. Joseph’s leading manufacturing companies have moved forward on expansions. In the last year, Altec Industries, which makes aerial lifts and other specialty equipment, announces an $80 million project that will include $44 million in capital investment. The expansion is expected to add up to 105 jobs in three years.

Johnson Controls announced a $24 million capital investment for an expansion that would add 51 new full-time jobs and would invest a total of $35.7 million over a year. The company makes and ships automotive batteries in St. Joseph.

Boehringer Ingelheim looks to create 20 jobs with the expansion of its livestock animal vaccine production facility in St. Joseph. The 13,000-square-foot expansion is part of a combined $80 million investment at facilities in St. Joseph and Georgia.

Finally, Triumph Foods is looking to expand its pork plant in St. Joseph.

The pork-processing facility, located at 5302 Stockyards Expressway, announced plans last year for a 12,000-square-foot expansion to be completed by spring of this year.

The project includes robotic palletization technology to increase the speed of outbound shipping and reduce manual handling of finished products. Triumph states the addition also will allow for product storage with its strategic partner, Seaboard Foods, to expand its marketing and selling products to domestic retail and food service customers.

While not all of that growth can be tied to export vs. domestic markets, many of those companies are known to sell products outside the U.S.

In St. Joseph, the recent export growth is more than double the export growth of Springfield, which sits at $442 million. By comparison, St. Joseph’s growth is more than the total exports of Joplin, Jefferson City, Columbia and Cape Girardeau combined.

Statewide, Missouri’s top export products last year were transportation equipment, chemicals, food products, machinery, electrical equipment, fabricated metal and agricultural products. Top exports markets for Missouri products were Canada, Mexico, China, Belgium (the gateway to European Union markets) and Japan.

“While the numbers speak well for St. Joseph’s economy, it is also why we talk about and support U.S. trade and exports, something that seems the center of much debate in Washington, D.C., these days,” Lilly said last year.

A Missouri Department of Economic Development research brief found that export industries in Missouri accounted for 3.1 percent of total employment in the state. Average earnings per worker are 27 percent higher in export dependent jobs than in non-export dependent jobs, according to the report.

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