The Charleston metropolitan area shipped a record amount of exports in 2012, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Commerce's International Trade Administration.
The agency said businesses in the metro area - which included Kanawha, Boone, Lincoln and Putnam counties - provided $2.1 billion worth of goods and services to foreign markets last year.
Total exports from the region increased 4 percent, or $89 million, compared to the area's 2011 total.
"These metro numbers show that worldwide destinations are ripe for area exporters," said Leslie Drake, director of the U.S. Commercial Service Export Assistance Center in Charleston.
The top export categories for the year included mining products, chemicals, computer and electronic products, machinery and transportation equipment. Leading destinations for Charleston-area exports included countries and companies participating in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and North American Free Trade Agreement.
Statewide, West Virginia exports hit a record for the third year in a row in 2012, increasing more than 25 percent to $11.3 billion during the year.
The Charleston area was one of 153 U.S. metropolitan areas to top $1 billion in exports for the year, and one of 170 areas to achieve record-high exports.
Nationwide, U.S. companies exported a record $2.2 trillion worth of goods and services to foreign countries last year. The International Trade Administration said those exports helped support nearly 10 million U.S. jobs last year.
Commission begins hearings on plants
The state Public Service Commission will begin a three-day hearing today on American Electric Power's plan to transfer two coal-fired power plants from an Ohio-based subsidiary to Appalachian Power.
Under the plan, Ohio Power will sell its two-thirds ownership in Unit 3 of the John E. Amos power plant in Poca and half of the Mitchell Plant in Moundsville to Appalachian Power. Appalachian will pay about $1 billion to acquire the plants, according to the PSC's Consumer Advocate Division.
Company officials say transferring the assets will help Appalachian close a power generation gap in its network. The company has had to buy additional electricity to meet demand in recent years, and the shortfall is expected to grow when Appalachian closes several older coal-powered plants in 2015.
Environmental advocates have said the sale amounts to AEP simply dumping its coal-fired generating assets onto Appalachian customers in West Virginia, Virginia and Tennessee.
The state Consumer Advocate Division has also said the $1 billion transaction will lead to higher rates.