Why Iowa Is Becoming Known for Advanced Manufacturing

Why Iowa Is Becoming Known for Advanced Manufacturing

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Iowa farm

The state of Iowa is famous for quite a few things: its state fair; being the leading producer of corn, soybeans, hogs, and eggs in the USA; and the birthplace of the inventor of sliced bread

Until now, this midwestern state may not have been known for advanced manufacturing, but since the sector has become Iowa’s largest industry and is responsible for around 18{e3fa8c93bbc40c5a69d9feca38dfe7b99f2900dad9038a568cd0f4101441c3f9} of its total GDP and 14{e3fa8c93bbc40c5a69d9feca38dfe7b99f2900dad9038a568cd0f4101441c3f9} of its workforce, advanced manufacturing will have to be added to the long list of Iowa’s prowesses.

Iowa’s Top Manufacturing Sub-sectors and Companies 

In 2018, advanced manufacturing was Iowa’s third major industry, but it rapidly rose through the ranks, beating healthcare and social services, and wholesale and retail trade, to reach first place. Interestingly, renewable energy is also gaining traction in the state. There are currently more than 4,000 manufacturing companies in Iowa designing and building machinery in a wide range of sectors including food and beverage, medical, construction, and aerospace. 

The top advanced manufacturing sub-sectors in Iowa include industrial metal processing, automation precision machinery, and power generation equipment, with manufacturers spread around the state. Iowa’s top manufacturing companies are Collins Aerospace in Cedar Rapids (navigation and aviation electronics, mission systems and avionics communication), John Deere Waterloo Works in Waterloo (tractors and parts), and Winnebago Industries in Forest City (motorhomes, and travel trailers).

Understanding the Rise of Advanced Manufacturing in Iowa

Iowa likely rose to this status, in part, thanks to its particularly convenient mid-point location in the country. From Iowa, one can reach many important markets, including Chicago, Kansas City, Minneapolis, and Omaha, within a few hours. With expedient access to waterways, major roads 一 Iowa has more public road miles than there are Interstate miles in the rest of America 一 more than 100 publicly owned airports, and rail freight tracks that are used by 18 freight carriers, Iowa’s strong transportation network no doubt is a great asset in the generation of the $12 billion worth of advanced manufacturing exports.

In addition to Iowa State University’s Center for Industrial Research and Service, there are many manufacturing training and research programs offered by other top schools in the state, i.e., Northwest Iowa Community College offers manufacturing programs including engineering design and advanced welding technology, and the University of Northern Iowa has an advanced manufacturing B.S. degree.

The rise in advanced manufacturing in Iowa could just be, for the state, the best thing since sliced bread.


Image Credit: Alena Mozhjer / Shutterstock.com

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