Wisconsin’s Leading Export Industries

(Image Source: Paul Teysen / Unsplash)

Wisconsin IDEA

Insight • Data • Economics • Analysis

Since 2002, Pharmaceuticals and Medicines Exports Experienced Annual Average Growth of 80.8%

The ability of Wisconsin businesses to export to foreign markets remains an important part of the Wisconsin economy. In 2022 Wisconsin businesses shipped over $27.4 billion to 182 separate counties. The single largest export sector, accounting for $1.9 billion or 6.9% of total exports, is Agriculture, Construction, and Mining Machinery Manufacturing (NAICS 3331) followed by Navigational, Measuring, Electromedical, and Control Instruments Manufacturing (NAICS 3345) which exported $1.7 billion or 6.2%).

Figure 1. Wisconsin Foreign Exports: Growth Index 2002 to 2022
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Nonemployer Statistics by Demographics and Annual Business Survey (ABS), Annual Business Survey Program

While these sectors have tended to remain the largest foreign exporters over the past two decades, and there has been some growth in their exports, there are other sectors that have seen stronger export growth (Figure 1). For example, while Agriculture, Construction, and Mining Machinery Manufacturing experienced an average annual increase in foreign exports of 8.2% other sectors such as Plastics Products (NAISC 3261) experienced an average annual increase of 17.7% and Dairy Products (NAISC 3115) experienced an average annual increase of 38.9% since 2002.

Clearly, over the past two decades, there have been oscillations in foreign exports, there are some Wisconsin industries that are contributing a larger proportion of Wisconsin’s export market. The fastest-growing sector is Pharmaceuticals and Medicines (NAISC 3254), which experienced an annual average growth of 80.8% with the largest growth occurring over the past decade. Over the three-year period 2002 to 2004 Pharmaceuticals and Medicines exported an annual average of $100.2 million but by 2020 to 2022 the industry exported an annual average of $1.51 billion.

Figure 2. Wisconsin Foreign Exports: Top Export Countries

Canada remains our primary exporting partner accounting for almost one-third ($8.6 billion) all Wisconsin exports, and this has remained stable over the past two decades (Figure 2). Our next largest export remains Mexico accounting for an annual average of 10.9% over the past two decades with the share trending upward. China is our third largest export partner with an annual average of about 6.2%, which has been relatively stable followed by Germany and the United Kingdom (3.5% of Wisconsin total exports each), and Australia (2.8%). Japan had been a much stronger export market two decades ago accounting for 9% of Wisconsin exports in 2002 but has declined to only 2.6% in 2022. While promoting the expansion of foreign exports for Wisconsin businesses is pivotal for business growth, it’s imperative to acknowledge that variations in exchange rates and political uncertainties, exemplified by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, can give rise to formidable challenges. Still, adept management of these risks is feasible.

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