The Brookings Institution, a liberal think tank based in Washington, D.C., selected San Diego to participate in its first Metropolitan Export Exchange program, aimed at helping to increase the amount of exports in the region, which would boost jobs and economic growth, according to Mayor Jerry Sanders’ office.

The program is part of the Brookings-Rockefeller Project on State and Metropolitan Innovation, “a national effort to catalyze and showcase leading-edge practices to boost the nation’s transition to the next economy,” said Sanders’ office in a prepared release.

The city was selected from an unknown group of applicant cities. Other groups involved in the application were the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp., World Trade Center San Diego, the San Diego Unified Port District and the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority.

According to Brookings fellow Brad McDearman, who is the director of the export initiative program, the U.S. needs to regain jobs lost during the downturn and create new jobs to keep pace with population growth. “Increasing exports at the metropolitan level is an important part of any integrated economic strategy,” he said.

The program includes Brookings putting on two workshops, providing readings, hosting monthly webinars, and supplying data and technical resources to the selected cities. The idea is for the city to prepare an assessment of its current exports and strategy, and develop a plan to boost those exports, which would be implemented within 12 months, according to Sanders’ office.

San Diego is the nation’s 17th largest exporter of goods, and shipped some $17.4 billion of merchandise in 2011, up 5.7 percent from 2010, according to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration.

The top export categories for the local region that year, the most recent available data, are miscellaneous manufactured commodities, a category that includes a wide variety of goods such as jewelry and sporting goods, at $5 billion; computer and electronic products, $2.9 billion; and machinery, excepting electrical, at $2.8 billion.