Brookings-Rockefeller Project on State and Metropolitan Innovation

Building the Next Economy From the Bottom-Up: The Metropolitan Export Initiative

The Metropolitan Export Initiative was a collaborative global engagement practice effort in 12 regions. Through the Metropolitan Export Initiative, Working with Brookings scholars and staff, regions developed metropolitan export plans for expanding exports to rapidly growing global markets with the goal of diversifying regional economies. This process relied on a mix of customized data, firm interviews, and other market intelligence to develop concrete strategies and programs to boost their region’s global engagement.

To support the implementation of their metropolitan export plans, city and regional leaders also identified critical state and federal policies, such as those related to skills development, finance, and freight infrastructure. In many regions, metropolitan export plans were developed as part of larger, comprehensive economic development strategies.

Plans and Strategies:

In 2012, the project inaugurated its exports initiative with regional export plans in four metropolitan areas:  Portland, Ore.; Los Angeles .; Minneapolis-Saint Paul ; and Syracuse/Center State, N.Y.

Following the successful completion of the pilot, the project worked with regional partners in eight new sites in 2013 through the Metropolitan Export Exchange: Charleston, S.C.; Chicago, Ill.; Columbus, Ohio; Des Moines, Iowa; Louisville and Lexington, Ky.; San Antonio, Tex.; San Diego; and Tampa, Fla..

Today MEI sites are implementing a range of initiatives. For example:

Portland created and marketed a “We Build Green Cities” global brand, based on the region’s assets in sustainability and green-building expertise, leading to contracts signed in January 2014 for work on a “smart city” project in Japan. Partners also successfully executed several other strategies, including a study to address bottlenecks in freight movement, targeted market research for companies’ efforts to improve supply chains, and export assistance training.

Syracuse received more than $1 million in state, federal, and private funds to expand its export efforts, including hiring an experienced export consultant to work directly with firms through the Central New York International Business Alliance.

Ten Steps to Delivering a Successful Metro Export Plan

The project also published a guide for state and metropolitan leaders that summarizes the key steps toward developing an effective metropolitan export plan and initiative. It serves as a how-to-guide for private, nonprofit, and government leaders in metro areas who are interested in developing effective action-oriented metropolitan export plans and initiatives. Additional resources include survey templates, regional survey analyses, and regional policy memos.

With completion of the Metropolitan Export Initiative, all regions have continued working on broader global trade and investment strategies through The Global Cities Initiative: A Joint Project of Brookings and JPMorgan Chase