Valley exports could revitalize manufacturing in Youngstown area

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SALEM, Ohio (WKBN) – Mahoning Valley exporters sending products around the world have doubled the area’s gross domestic product from April through June, showing the Youngstown area’s reach around the world.

Exports were climbing 22 percent between 2009 and 2012, reaching nearly $5 billion.

BOC Hydraulics in Salem started manufacturing high-pressure water applications in 1993. Within ten years, its first items went overseas.

Now, exports are a million-dollar part of the business, shipping to at least 250 customers in nine countries.

“We gotta be able to sell beyond our borders,” said Todd Olson with BOC. “I think the general population is not really tuned in to how important that is to the overall health and well-being of our economy.”

Olson says exports peaked in 2014 but since then, there hasn’t been any growth because of a price problem over the last two years. It was hard to sell around the world with places like Brazil and its currency sinking compared to the U.S. dollar.

“Our prices went up two- to three-fold and we didn’t do anything differently.”

BOC makes parts for multiple industries including energy, oil, gas and steel.

Trade agreements have been a big focus of the election. Olson believes there is an even bigger angle that really affects production in America and selling goods overseas.

“It’s very important that we have good international monetary policies, so we don’t get duped into thinking a strong dollar is great and can consume, consume, consume,” he said. “We’re doing that at the expense of our businesses and our exporters, in particular.”

Numerous companies around the Valley reach out to a large part of the globe by selling goods overseas. While that production is important, if export sales continue to rebound, it could return the Youngstown area to being a manufacturing sweet spot.

“In order to continue to sell offshore, we gotta be better, faster, smarter just to stay in the game,” Olson said. “If it ever comes back, we should be extremely well-positioned.”

That big rebound in energy is something everyone has been waiting for.

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