The Northwest economy continues to surge, while the rest of the country struggles, and it's tempting to think it's because of all the smart folks out here, cooking up new companies. Doubtless that's partly true. But a bigger factor is the weak dollar. Washington state, for instance, leads the nation in exports as a share of state output. Those exports are booming because of the weak dollar, which translates into bargain prices offshore. Michael Parks, editor of the invaluable Marple's Pacific Northwest Letter, tallies up the figures for Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Alaska, and finds the export totals hitting new all-time highs for the fourth consecutive year. Total exports last year for the region ($92.5 billion) were up 20 percent over 2006, about twice the national increase. Boeing is one big factor, accounting for about $40 billion of the region's exports. Another is record-high wheat prices. Montana is booming in chemical exports, minerals, and ores. Oregon is somewhat slower in growth, due to declining microchip-related exports, but still surging from agricultural exports. Idaho is exporting a lot of computer and electronic products, led by Micron Technology. Alaska is very export-driven, but mainstay exports in fish and minerals are now flat. One more thing: The strong Canadian dollar is driving customers across the border, looking for baragins. "A friend marvels at buying a book at Powell's Books in Portland at half the Victoria price," notes Parks.