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SOUTHLAND TRADE FACES BUMPS GROWTH IS STILL EXPECTED.

Byline: Gregory J. Wilcox Staff Writer

Southern California's international trade sector, a powerful economic engine, should produce another record year in 2006 but it will likely be a rough ride, according to a report released today.

The number of containers processed at the Los Angeles/Long Beach port complex is expected to increase this year by 10.2 percent, to 15.6 million units, said the analysis from the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.

The total value of two-way trade moving through the Los Angeles Customs District should grow 11 percent, to $326.1 billion. The district also includes Port Hueneme, the Los Angeles International and Ontario International airports, several oil terminals and McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas.

The district has been the nation's top international trade center every year but one since since 1993. Last year the New York/New Jersey area was second followed by Detroit.

``This is a sector that has been zipping right along, but now we're dealing with a set of complications,'' said Jack Kyser, the business development group's chief economist.

One is the environmental issues stemming from the heavy use of diesel fuel aboard ships, in trucks hauling product to and from the ports and railroad locomotives.

And while cargo generally moves easily within the port, once outside the facilities it can get held up on roadways and rail lines that are at or near capacity.

One major concern is that a state infrastructure bond that would have paid for some transportation improvements failed to make it on the June ballot.

There are efforts to get the issue before voters in November, which could include as much as $18 billion for transportation, including up to $6 billion for international trade, said Bill Allen, the LAEDC's president and chief executive officer.

``I think it is absolutely essential that we address these infrastructure issues as quickly as possible. The growth in trade is accelerating and we have to develop the capacity to handle the increased growth efficiently,'' Allen said.

Other areas of concern this year are port security, port truck driver unrest about a program that requires nighttime work and cargo being diverted to other facilities over concern about congestion.

Rachel Campbell, a spokeswoman at the Port of Los Angeles, said officials there had not seen the LAEDC report so they could not comment on it.

Officials at the Port of Long Beach did not return several calls seeking comment.

On the upside of the balance sheet, the economies of the nation's major trading partners remain healthy, which should signal future growth.

Currently about 450,000 people work in international trade and employment increased 11.2 percent last year. Kyser expects this sector to add 45,500 new jobs this year and remain the region's second-biggest employer behind the service sector.

greg.wilcox@dailynews.com

(818) 713-3758

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SOURCE: Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 3, 2006
Words:493
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