PITTSFIELD — The Pittsfield metro area is becoming a hub for selling goods to other countries.
Led by the chemical manufacturing sector, the Pittsfield metro area, which contains all of Berkshire County, set a record of $538 million in goods exports last year, according to the International Trade Administration.
It was one of 63 of the country's 388 metro areas to achieve record export levels in 2015, according to the ITA, which has been tracking those figures since 2005.
The total amount of goods exported from the Pittsfield region increased by 3.9 percent, or $20 million, from 2014. That amount has jumped $70 million over the last two years, according to the ITA's numbers.
More than 76 percent of the Pittsfield metro area's goods exports in 2015 went to markets where the United States has trade agreements in force.
International trade agreements have become a major issue in the 2016 presidential campaign. But U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, who hosted an export forum in Pittsfield in 2013, said the selling of American-made goods to other countries often gets overlooked in the conversation.
"What's frequently left out in the story about trade is the good news about exports," said the Springfield Democrat, who serves on the House Ways and Means Committee on trade. "The observations tend to be about imports.
"The Berkshires have now become a major address in terms of exporting goods," he said.
"The Massachusetts economy is one third trade-related," Neal added. "You can't have Logan Airport, the port of Albany (in New York's Capital Region) and the port of Boston and not understand that there are extraordinary opportunities."
The county's chemical manufacturing sector accounted for 72 percent of the Pittsfield metro area's goods exports last year, racking up $388 million, according to figures obtained from the U.S. Commercial Service in Boston.
The next three sectors, transportation/equipment manufacturing, paper manufacturing and plastics/rubber manufacturing, in order, all made up less than 10 percent of the county's good exports last year, led by transportation/equipment manufacturing at 8.2 percent.
All the other sectors in the Pittsfield metro area combined placed second behind chemical manufacturing at 10.8 percent, according to the U.S. Commercial Service.
"The Pittsfield-area's record numbers show how many local companies are finding success in overseas markets," said Jim Paul, the director of the U.S. Commercial Service in Boston, in a statement.
According to the ITA, 156 metropolitan areas across the country registered merchandise exports worth more than $1 billion in 2015.
"The growth in area metro exports helps demonstrate that there's every incentive to pursue export opportunities," Paul said.
In May, Iredale Mineral Cosmetics in Great Barrington was one of 73 U.S. companies and organizations to receive the President's "E" Award — the highest recognition any U.S. entity can receive for making a significant contribution to the expansion of U.S. exports — from the U.S. Department of Commerce for demonstrating a sustained increase in export sales over a four year period. Wood Industries Inc. of Belmont, which manufactures and distributes air compressors and tools, was the only other state company to make that list.
Thirty percent of Iredale's current revenue comes through products that the company exports to 52 different countries, through 32 separate distributors, a roughly 20 percent jump from eight years ago, according to company CFO Robert Montgomery.
"Iredale is one of the biggest exporters in New England," said Neal, who visited the company's Great Barrington operations in July.
The Pittsfield metro area tallied $498 million in goods exports in 2005, the first year that the ITA kept those figures. But those numbers fell precipitously during the Great Recession years, bottoming out at $257 million in 2009.
Pittsfield's goods exports rallied quickly, re-breaking the $400 million mark in 2010. Except for a $23 million decrease in 2012, goods exports in the Pittsfield metro area have increased every year since then.
Contact Tony Dobrowolski at 413 496-6224.