A spike in aircraft turbines and semiconductor manufacturing helped the Portland metro area grow its exports by more than 8 percent in 2015, making it the fastest-growing billion-dollar-plus exporting region in New England, according to newly released federal data.

Goods exported from the metro area, which includes Cumberland, York and Sagadahoc counties, totaled $1.1 billion in 2015, an increase of $88 million over 2014, according to a report this month from the International Trade Administration. This is the second year the metro area has increased its exports.

In contrast, Maine exports remained relatively flat last year, growing just 1 percent.

“I am very encouraged to see the significant role that exports are starting to play in our metro areas,” said Janine Bisaillon-Cary, president of the Maine International Trade Center. “We’ll take the export growth anywhere we can get it, but we hope to see it spread throughout the state, and in our smaller and medium-sized companies.”

Aircraft turbine growth was powered by Pratt & Whitney in North Berwick, which is included in the metro area as it is defined by the U.S. Department of Commerce, said Bisaillon-Cary. Turbine exports increased 111 percent in 2015, she said.

Most of the turbines went to Canada, with some going to Singapore, Japan and United Kingdom.


Bisaillon-Cary credited the 80 percent growth in semiconductor exports to Texas Instruments in South Portland, whose 500-person workforce makes the analog chips that are used to transform signals such as sound into a digital form that computers can understand. New sales there are just starting to show up in federal data, she said.

The semiconductors are exported to Malaysia for further processing, Bisaillon-Cary said.

The U.S. Commercial Service touted the Portland metro area increase in a press release.

“These export numbers show that businesses continue to ‘make locally, and sell globally’ in Portland,” said Jeffrey Porter, the service’s regional director in Portland. “The growth demonstrates that there’s every incentive to pursue export opportunities.”

The fastest-growing New England metro area was New London, Connecticut, but that is a much smaller market. Even with an 87 percent increase, its exports totaled just $405.9 million in 2015. Metro Bangor led Maine in export growth, at 13.5 percent, but it is a small market, with a total value of just $129.2 million in 2015.

Many other large New England metro areas saw their exports fall in 2015, including Boston, whose exports dropped 8.8 percent, and Hartford, which saw its exports fall by 3.6 percent, and Providence, whose exports fell by 23.4 percent. Worcester, Massachusetts, saw a slight uptick of a half percent in its exports.

Bisaillon-Cary said she was hopeful that the Portland and Bangor metro area growth was a sign of future state growth in exports. She said MITC has been aggressively pursuing small-business grants to help small and medium companies in Maine grow their markets internationally.

She recently returned from a defense trade show in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where 10 Maine companies were exploring new international markets, with a focus on marine products. Although not in the same league as Pratt & Whitney or Texas Instruments, these small companies drive a lot of the Maine economy and employ thousands of Mainers, she said.

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