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Detroit is the hub for the U.S. auto industry, and Silicon Valley is ground zero for tech firms. But when it comes to selling American goods abroad, top U.S. cities are flourishing as a result of export businesses.
On the West Coast, Los Angeles, Seattle and San Jose make the top 10 list of metro areas for U.S. exports. However, New York City ranks number one. To the South, Miami, Houston and Dallas make the list; as do Detroit, Chicago and Minneapolis in the Midwest.
Despite their geographical range, these cities share common traits, says Natalie Soroka, an economist in the Office of Trade and Industry Information within the International Trade Administration (ITA) in Washington D.C. "They tend to be large metro areas with convenient shipping points," she says. "That may include airports or sea ports, though we see a bias toward coastal cities."
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Top U.S. Exports for Cities
And while each city offers a range of export products, they tend to play host to niche sectors of foreign markets. The top export for Detroit and Seattle, for example, is transportation equipment. L.A., San Jose, Dallas and Miami count computer and electronic equipment among their leading exports. Houston's top exports are petroleum and coal products, Chicago's is chemicals, and Minneapolis makes almost a third of its export sales in crop production. New York City, the top export metro in the country, makes 20 percent of its sales from miscellaneous manufactured commodities.
Their trading partners vary, as well. Most count Mexico, Canada and China among their top export destinations. Brazil, the U.K., India and Saudi Arabia also make the top three list for many of these cities. South Korea, Colombia, Venezuela and Japan are also among the top three, as well, for these metro areas.
Getting Involved in the Export Business
Whether a small business is located in a top export metro or not, it can take advantage of these hubs to tap into new global markets, says Derrick Olsen, vice president of regional strategy and coordination for Greater Portland Inc, a regional partnership helping companies expand and locate to the Portland, Ore.-Vancouver area.
Small firms looking to tap into this growth can get their foot in the door by becoming part of the broader supply chain for larger export firms, Olsen suggests. "They become a part of the export economy by selling into the supply chain, and the expertise they gain can help them become more competitive as a direct exporter," he says.
Along with creating a connection to larger businesses, a small business can leverage its relationship with a trusted online foreign exchange service to simplify international payments for foreign customers abroad. With an online FX provider, businesses can secure the latest exchange rates when conducting transactions around the clock.
Small firms can also take advantage of the ITA. "We have offices in over 100 different cities that provide U.S. export assistance," according to a spokesperson for the ITA. "Our U.S. centers are great resources for small businesses to get started in exporting, no matter where they are located or looking to export."
 "Top 50 Metropolitan Area Exporters Ranked by 2011 Export Value," International Trade Administration
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