The Bureau of Labor Statistics released a regional look at GDP growth in 2010, measuring economic activity by metropolitan area. For several Indiana cities, manufacturing continues to lead the recovery - durable goods manufacturing contributed 11.4 percentage points to the Elkhart-Goshen region, and more than 6 percentage points in Columbus and Kokomo.

Nor was manufacturing's effect confined to a few metropolitan districts. An earlier BLS study showed that Indiana's overall GDP growth ranked third in the nation, behind only North Dakota (driven by its oil industry and the lack of a housing bubble to recover from) and New York (where a Wall Street rebound led the comeback). For Indiana, manufacturing was the catalyst durable goods production contributed more to our GDP growth than any other state (2.3 percent of the 4.6 percent total increase).

These statistics confirm what we already know Indiana is a manufacturing state, and we've ridden the sector out of the economic trough. Our annual Indiana Manufacturing and Logistics Report Card, released earlier this year by Ball State University's Center for Business and Economic Research, notes that Hoosier manufacturing employment has grown by 5 percent since the end of the recession, while the nation as a whole has suffered through a largely jobless recovery.

Another study, this one by the Indiana Business Research Center at IU, gives us some perspective on this manufacturing success. With the U.S. economy stagnant, Indiana set a record in manufacturing exports in 2010.

According to the IBRC analysis, Indiana exported nearly $29 billion in goods last year, up 25 percent from 2009. We outpaced the Midwest and the nation in export growth; manufactured products accounted for the vast majority of our exports, with vehicle parts, pharmaceuticals and industrial machinery leading the way.

Of course, this export boom was also made possible by a strong logistics sector supported by world-class infrastructure international airports, maritime ports and unparalleled interstate access creating a vital link in a global supply chain.

Hoosier manufacturers are exporting more than ever before, by choice and by necessity. Looking at the national economy, it's hard not to sound pessimistic job creation stuck in neutral, incomes flat, the real possibility of a double-dip recession. It adds up to sluggish domestic demand, as individuals are spending less and businesses are hesitant to invest. Looking abroad for opportunities is a must, and our trading relationships with Canada, the European Union and China are increasingly critical.

Conexus Indiana is generally focused on what Hoosier industry leaders, policymakers and educators need to do to make our manufacturing and logistics sector more productive and successful working together to build a stronger work force, collaborating to exploit market opportunities in areas like automotive and aerospace. But we do speak out occasionally on federal issues for example, the need to repair failing locks and dams on the Ohio River and Lake Michigan.

Free trade is also a national priority worthy of support. Indiana's manufacturers need more opportunities to compete in global markets to drive continued growth.

By concentrating on issues like human capital here at home, we're making sure that when Congress does act on trade agreements with Columbia, Panama, South Korea and others and we encourage them to do so we'll be ready.

Steve Dwyer is President & CEO of Conexus Indiana, an initiative focused on the workforce and other needs of the state's manufacturing and logistics industries.

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