Primary economic activities. Industrial complex of the region includes mining companies, processing enterprises, electric power, water and gas generation and distribution companies.
The key industries are:
Machine building and metalworking - production of metal cutting tools, professional equipment, automation equipment for trade and food service companies
Woodworking, pulp-and-paper industries
Agriculture. Agro-industrial complex is an important part of the regional economy. Production of grain, vegetables and flax are the basis of plant growing. Cattle is bred mainly for milk and meat.
Natural resources: Water resources include major rivers - the Volga and Vetluga, as well as Cheboksary and Kuybyshev reservoirs and great deal of smaller rivers and forest lakes.
Over 55.9% of the territory is covered with forests, which are mainly mixed conifer broad-leaved forests.
Non-metallic mineral resources are represented by deposits of building materials: plaster and gypsum plaster, building stone, clays, carbonate rock used for production of lime and cement.
Mari El Republic has one of the largest explored deposits of quartz sands in Russia.
Peat beds occupy vast territory of the Republic.
Valuable sapropel and mineral muds are formed due to numerous lakes.
Fuel and energy complex: Fuel and energy resources of the Republic are mainly imported from other regions of Russia, with smaller part produced within the Republic. Fuel and energy balance is based on natural gas, which makes 80%. The rest 20% fall on black coal, fuel oil, fire wood and peat. Fuel and energy complex is represented by the following enterprises: MariEnergo, MUP (municipal unitary enterprise), Yoshkar-Ola Heat Power Plant-1.
Foreign trade turnover. In 2009 foreign trade turnover of the Republic made USD 294 mln, including export – USD 245.9 mln, and import – USD 48.1 mln. Products of fuel and energy complex, forest products, articles of machine-building prevailed in the structure of exported goods of the Republic. Articles of machine building, petrochemistry products, ferrous and non-ferrous metals were mainly imported into the region. In 2009 Mari El Republic entered into trade relations with 54 countries, most of commodities were exported to Latvia, Finland, Kazakhstan, China and Ukraine.
Transport system of Mari El includes motor roads, railroads, oil and gas pipe lines, navigable rivers and air transport.
Freights are mainly transported by railroad and by cars. Railways inside the Republic make the total of 207 km, and general use motor roads – 5,800 km.
The city of Kozmodemyansk lying on the Volga River has a river port. Navigable waterways within the regional water area make the total of 279 km.
“Yoshkar-Ola” airport operates in the capital of the Republic and handlesTU-134 and smaller airliners, as well as helicopters of all types.
Tourism. Five recreation zones have been specified for sports and health and educational tourism. Mari El Republic offers exotic opportunities for active rest: water and ski tourism, horse riding, walking, cycling, fishing, hunting etc. Blackcock and grouse shooting attracts great deal of tourists.
The beautiful pristine area with vast forest areas and numerous rivers and lakes attract a lot of tourists from Russia and foreign countries. Ethnographic tours as well as pilgrim tours to holy places - monasteries, churches, sacred springs - enjoy stable popularity.