Wisconsin’s exports on the rise

WEDC is poised to help companies grow their exports further

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:08 pm

Wisconsin’s exports grew by 6 percent in 2017 compared to the prior year, reaching a total of $22.3 billion in goods and services exported to 202 countries around the world.

The state’s top trading partners are Canada, Mexico and China, and all three of these destinations saw significant increases of Wisconsin exports in 2017. Exports to Canada grew by 4.3 percent, to $6.9 billion, driven by increases in the export of miscellaneous mineral products and electrical machinery. Exports to Mexico were up 4.8 percent to a record $3.2 billion, mostly because of an increase in the export of electrical machinery and oil seeds (primarily soybeans). Exports to China jumped by 21.6 percent, to $1.7 billion, in 2017 – also a record for exports to that country. Driving the growth in exports to China were increases in the shipments of aircraft and parts; industrial machinery; dairy products; wood and wood products; and raw hides and skins.

Wisconsin’s exports to Saudi Arabia also grew – in this case, surging 71 percent to $796 million – due almost entirely to an increase in military vehicle exports. This increase moves Saudi Arabia into the position of Wisconsin’s fourth-highest export destination.

Industrial machinery continues to be Wisconsin’s top export product category, accounting for 24 percent of all exports, or $5.4 billion in 2017. Electrical machinery tied with medical and scientific instruments for second place; both categories came in at $2.2 billion, each representing 10 percent of the state’s total exports.

Wisconsin ranks 19th among U.S. states in total exports, and 12th for agricultural exports. Wisconsin led the nation in exports of a wide variety of products in 2017, including prepared/preserved cranberries, prepared/preserved sweet corn, bovine semen, outboard marine engines, refrigeration/freezer equipment, tanks and other armored vehicles and parts, and lawnmowers.

Given this trend of rising exports, Wisconsin companies would be wise to focus on growing their exports – or on getting started with exporting if they don’t yet have a strategy in place. The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. offers a number of programs designed to help companies with their exporting needs.

The ExporTech Program, offered by WEDC and the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership, guides Wisconsin companies in creating an export strategy tailored for their products, honing in on a handful of markets where they have the greatest chance of success. This program is appropriate for companies that are just getting started with exporting, as well as those that have taken a reactive approach to exporting thus far and would like to become more proactive and strategic.

WEDC also offers Global Business Development grants to assist companies with export growth activities such as attending overseas trade shows; customizing their websites, product documentation and/or marketing materials for new markets; export education and competency building; and export-related consulting services. Companies that have completed ExporTech are eligible to apply for a higher grant amount.

In addition, WEDC leads approximately six global trade ventures each year. Wisconsin’s leading export destinations are on the list of trade venture destinations annually, along with a few other destinations – such as the trade venture to Germany coming up in June. Through its global network of authorized trade representatives, WEDC engages trade representation in 82 countries around the world, and these representatives are available to assist Wisconsin companies with market research to inform their export plans.

Subscribe to WEDC’s INterconnect newsletter to find out about upcoming global trade ventures and other export growth opportunities.

Katy Sinnott is vice president of international business development at Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.

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