Growth in exports boosts Iowa economy

When Terry Branstad emerged from political retirement as a candidate for governor in 2010, one of his campaign promises was to expand markets for Iowa products.

Promise kept.

In 2014, Iowa exports reached a record $15.1 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Iowa was one of 26 states (including Nebraska, $7.9 billion) to set a record for exports last year.

According to the Commerce Department, machinery and food exports accounted for more than half of Iowa’s total dollar amount; Canada, Mexico, Japan and China were the leading destinations for Iowa products. China, in fact, is Iowa’s fastest-growing trade partner.

An Oct. 11 story from The Journal’s Des Moines bureau outlined the aggressive strategy employed by the Branstad administration to grow Iowa exports.

Since Branstad returned to office in 2011, more than two dozen international trade missions have been completed. Destinations include Mexico, Peru, Columbia, Brazil, Chile, Taiwan, South Korea, China, Japan, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Vietnam, the Philippines, South Africa, Italy, Switzerland, Kosovo, Israel and Turkey.

“The world really is flat,” Iowa Economic Development Authority Director Debi Durham said for the Oct. 11 story. “When you see how successful these trips have been and what opportunities and doors it opens for Iowa, it’s an important part of the work that we do here.”

We commend the Branstad team for its export strategy and success. Growth in exports translates to profits for Iowa companies, both large and small (more than 3,300 Iowa companies exported products in 2014 and the vast majority of those companies employed fewer than 500 workers, the Commerce Department report said), and jobs for Iowans (the Commerce Department estimates $1 billion in exports supports approximately 5,000 jobs).

“With more than 95 percent of the world’s population and 80 percent of the world’s purchasing power outside the United States, future economic growth and jobs for Iowa and America increasingly depend on expanding U.S. trade and investment opportunities in the global marketplace,” according to the Business Roundtable, an association of chief executive officers of leading U.S. companies working to promote “sound public policy and a thriving U.S. economy.”

To this end, Iowa is, indeed, on the right track.