Tech Firms Top U.S. Exports

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Hail to the chips! Fueled by a ravenous appetite for computerware in developing countries, high tech has shot to the top of the U.S. exports list, with $29 billion in sales last year. Commerce Department statistics released Tuesday paint an astounding picture of Silicon Valley: San Jose posted an 81 percent rise in exported goods over the last four years, bypassing New York and even the motor giants of Detroit.

"The overseas computer market is where the biggest growth lies," says TIME San Francisco bureau chief David Jackson. "Intel has made the overseas market its number one target, with half their sales coming from outside the United States." The thinking behind the export drive is that since most foreign customers are starting from scratch rather than buying upgrades, why leave yesterday's models to languish on American shelves when they can be flogged overseas?

More good news for the Valley: It also boasts the highest average wages of any metropolitan area. And as long as demand continues, San Jose can expect to keep its top status. "Most Americans tend to think that the world revolves around us," says Jackson. "At least in the computer industry, it does."