Gray Manufacturing designs, builds and sells service equipment for the automotive, truck and service vehicle repair industries. Gray has exported to about 45 countries since 1952.

In the last decade, St. Joseph has had a large impact on the global market and is the third largest exporter in Missouri behind St. Louis and Kansas City.

Patt Lilly, St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce CEO, said St. Joseph makes almost $1 billion in exports annually, which is twice as much as Springfield.

“We’re a community that makes things and 20% or more of our workforce is involved in manufacturing and production, which is a pretty sizable number for a community our size,” Lilly said.

Lilly said Buchanan County also is one of the leading counties in Missouri for manufacturing, with its location quotient over 2.2. The quotient shows what makes a certain region unique compared to the national average, and anything over 1.0 represents an employment concentration greater than the national average.

Numerous companies across the city make a variety of products, from agriculture-related chemicals, food and grains to machinery and hydraulic equipment.

“When you take our manufacturing sector along with our ag sector, we really do export a great deal of product,” Lilly said.

Lilly said an interstate and river running past the city puts St. Joseph in a good position for easy access and also brings in a large number of jobs for industry.

“At some companies, close to 25% to 30% of people that work there owe their jobs to the export market, and that example goes on all over the community,” Lilly said.

One of the larger manufacturing companies in St. Joseph is Gray Manufacturing. Todd Michalski, vice president of sales and marketing, said he’s not surprised that St. Joseph has maintained the position as a larger exporter in the state.

“There’s a lot of historical manufacturing that comes out of the city, and we’ve always been a solid blue-collar manufacturing community,” Michalski said.

Gray has been a part of exports and manufacturing since 1952, and Michalski believes with the state the economy is in, more manufacturing will come back into the United States soon.

“With the infrastructure, history and tradition that St. Joe has, we’re very well positioned to capture some of that growth and make sure the economy locally stays very solid,” Michalski said.

Lilly said he also sees St. Joseph continuing to grow and prosper more in the future as countries like India and China become richer and do more business with the United States.

“They’ve become greater purchasers of products, and many of those are coming from St. Joseph,” Lilly said.

As the global market continues to look for products, Lilly said it will be no surprise that St. Joseph will stay as a top contributor.

Bailey Ketcham can be reached