With $22.4 billion in total exports in 2015, Wisconsin fared better than the nation as a whole: U.S. exports declined 7.2 percent, indicating that as the nation’s exports rebound and continue to grow, Wisconsin’s exports, down only 4.2 percent year-on-year, are on track to grow even faster. Among U.S. states, Wisconsin ranks 20th in total exports.
A weak global economy hurt exports in general, and a strong dollar made American-made products more expensive for foreign buyers in 2015.
“We are proud that Wisconsin’s exports beat the national average,” says Katy Sinnott, vice president of international business development for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. “The numbers demonstrate that our companies are thinking globally and putting strategies in place to take advantage of global demand for their products. With our export readiness programs, global trade ventures, export grant program and global network of trade representatives, WEDC offers resources that help more companies tap international demand and contribute to the state’s strong performance in exporting.”
On the list of Wisconsin’s leading export markets, Saudi Arabia moved into the top 10, displacing Brazil. Exports from Wisconsin to Saudi Arabia increased by 62 percent from 2014 to 2015; major categories include military vehicles, aircraft parts and “computers as part of systems.” (Other leading markets include Canada, Mexico, China, the UK, Japan, Germany, Australia, South Korea and France.)
Notably, Wisconsin’s exports to China ($1.5 billion in 2015) dropped by 0.9 percent—a very small percentage, compared to the 6.1 percent decline in exports to China for the U.S. as a whole. Two categories of exports to China, in particular, showed sizable growth: exports of medical and scientific instruments grew by 21 percent, and exports of non-railway vehicles and parts grew by 30 percent.
Furniture and lighting moved into Wisconsin’s top 10 export product categories, displacing dairy products.
Other categories of Wisconsin exports that increased in 2015 included “computers as parts of systems” (29 percent growth, with the UK, Saudi Arabia and South Korea as major destinations for these exports); medical and scientific instruments (11 percent growth, with particular growth in exports to Mexico and China in this category); and electrical machinery (2 percent growth).
Because the export classification codes narrowly define some categories, WEDC and its partners conducted an analysis that grouped multiple related codes into “super-categories,” providing further insight into Wisconsin’s key export products.
Industrial machinery remains the top category, but the “super-category” of water-related products would qualify as Wisconsin’s second-largest export category; energy, power and control would qualify as the third-largest; biotechnology would rank fourth; and agriculture would rank fifth.
Among U.S. states, Wisconsin ranks 12th for exports in water-related products; 12th in agriculture; 16th in energy, power and control; and 17th in biotech.