(The Center Square) – Texas, and its ports, combined, lead the U.S. for foreign trade impact, according to a new Site Selection Magazine analysis.
The ranking comes as Texas ports again broke records this year and as the legislature allocated a record amount of additional funding for Texas ports and infrastructure projects.
According to the report, the Top 10 states and territories by foreign-trade zone impact are Texas, Louisiana, California, South Carolina, Tennessee, Florida, Indiana, Arizona, Puerto Rico and Mississippi.
Among the top five foreign trade zones with the most container port performance, three are along the Texas Gulf: the Port of Houston Authority, Texas City Foreign-Trade Zone Corporation and Port Arthur’s Foreign-Trade Zone of Southeast Texas, Inc.
The analysis is based on an index using data sets from the 84th Annual Report of the Foreign-Trade Zones Board submitted to Congress earlier this year. It lists Texas, Louisiana and California as the top three states leading the U.S. in overall economic impact of federally designated Foreign-Trade Zones. South Carolina and Tennessee round out the top five. The report evaluates the value of merchandise received, value of exports and number of employees in FTZs.
Among the top 25 states ranked for FTZ activity, Texas ranked first for the greatest amount of merchandise received and exported; Louisiana ranked second, California third.
Port Houston, Texas, saw record volumes in 2022, according to the report.
This September, Port Houston’s loaded exports were the highest on record for any September in the port’s history. It handled 124,739 loaded export TEUs in September, a 21% increase from last September.
It “once again experienced a significant increase in loaded exports through its Bayport and Barbours Cut Container Terminals,” Port Houston announced last week. “The trend of increasing export volumes is expected to continue as the demand for resins remains high.”
“Port Houston is by far the top export port of resins in the nation and has a 59% share of the resin export market in the United States,” it notes, exporting various types of resins made possible by the Texas oil and natural gas industry.
“Houston is the plastic packaging capital of the U.S. and Port Houston is committed to expeditiously getting those export cargoes through our facilities and on their way to their global destination,” Roger Guenther, the port’s executive director, said. He added that the port was investing in infrastructure enhancements to improve and expand its productivity.
One major project is the Houston Ship Channel Expansion, stretching along 27 miles of the Galveston Bay area. The Houston Ship Channel complex supports 1.54 million jobs and roughly $439 billion worth of economic activity in Texas, or nearly 20% of Texas’ GDP, according to Port Houston.
Port Houston is the largest Texas port with 97% market share in containers and ranks first in the U.S. for its foreign waterborne tonnage. It is the largest Texas port with 38% market share by tonnage.
A few hours south, the Port of Corpus Christi, for the first time in its history, moved 52 million tons of goods in Q3 2023 through its ship channel, the port recently announced. It was the most in a single quarter and set a record for the sixth consecutive quarter.
The record “primarily can be attributed to a jump in crude oil exports,” the port said, having a 4.4% increase in crude oil shipments and higher volumes in liquefied natural gas, petroleum products and agricultural commodities from the previous quarter.
Five of Texas’ ports are ranked in the top 20 U.S. ports by total tonnage: Houston, Corpus Christi, Beaumont, Texas City, and Port Arthur. Two are among the top three largest in the U.S. based on tonnage.
Texas ports contribute over $450 billion in economic activity statewide and support 1.8 million Texas jobs, according to the governor’s office. Recognizing their “critical role … in our state’s booming economy, helping Texas continue to drive America’s economy and remain a hub for international trade,” Gov. Greg Abbott said.
In June, he signed into law SB 30, filed by state Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, which allocated a record $240 million in additional funding to support Texas ports, increase trade, improve safety, and support projects approved by the Texas Transportation Commission.
The funding includes $200 million for 31 port development and infrastructure projects through the Texas Department of Transportation’s Maritime Infrastructure Program and $40 million for 12 state highway and other public transportation roadway projects through its Seaport Connectivity Program.
In 2020, at the height of COVID-era government lockdowns, Texas ports moved more cargo than any other state of over 607 million tons, including 464 million tons of international cargo and 143 million tons of domestic cargo, according to the TXDOT.