U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar applauded the strength of Minnesota’s export economy and vowed to work on opening new markets for U.S. exports.

Minnesota exported $17.2 billion worth of manufactured exports in 2010—representing a 17.3 percent increase over the previous year and the second-highest annual dollar figure on record, according to data released by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).

DEED Commissioner Mark Phillips said that Minnesota manufacturers experienced “strong growth” in all four quarters of 2010, which points to a “brighter outlook” for 2011.

In March, DEED reported that the $4.6 billion in state-manufactured goods shipped off during the fourth quarter of last year set a new quarterly record. The annual export record of $17.3 billion was achieved in 2008.

Exports to most of the state’s 20 largest markets increased last year—including those to Canada ($4.6 billion, up 21 percent), China ($1.8 billion, up 45 percent), Japan ($930 million, up 26 percent), Mexico ($836 million, up 26 percent), and Germany ($727 million, up 12 percent). Ireland, however, posted the largest drop: Exports to the country declined 52 percent to $431 million last year.

Asia was the region that imported the greatest portion of Minnesota-manufactured exports. Goods shipped to the continent grew 36 percent to $5.7 billion last year. China, Japan, and Thailand drove that growth, according to DEED.

Following DEED’s announcement, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar lauded the strength of Minnesota’s export economy.

“This report shows strong progress for Minnesota businesses in these challenging economic times,” she said in a statement. “With 95 percent of the world’s customers living outside of our borders, finding new markets for our products is essential to long-term economic growth and job creation. We need to make sure that every American business can tap into the growing international marketplace, and that’s why, as chair of the Export Promotion Subcommittee, I will continue to work to advance a competitive agenda that will revitalize America’s innovative edge and open new markets for U.S. exports.”

Last year, four of the state’s five-largest export industries increased the amount of goods shipped overseas. Those increases were led by computers and electronics ($4 billion, up 18 percent) and followed by machinery ($3 billion, up 23 percent), transportation equipment ($2.1 billion, up 29 percent), and food ($1.3 billion, up 8 percent). Exports of miscellaneous goods, meanwhile, fell 14 percent to $1.7 billion.

“Exports were a bright spot in the state economy last year,” Katie Clark, executive director of the Minnesota Trade Office, said in a statement. “During tough economic times, companies that export can better withstand market fluctuations due to their diversified customer base.”