Wisconsin’s exports for the period January-June 2017 (Source: U.S. Census Bureau data as reported by WISERTrade)

The export data reported by the U.S. government for the first half of the year contained positive news for Wisconsin: the total amount of products exported during the first six months of 2017 was 8.2 percent more than the amount exported during the first half of 2016. 

Wisconsin firms exported $11.2 billion worth of products to 196 different countries around the world from January to June 2017, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau via WISERTrade. 

After an overall growth trend since 2010 and a record high in 2014, Wisconsin’s total exports declined in 2015 and 2016—similar to trends seen for the U.S. as a whole. 

The export growth seen in the first half of 2017 places Wisconsin 19 among U.S. states for the total value of its exports. Wisconsin’s exports were more than 20 percent higher than the amount exported during the first half of 2010. 

“We’re seeing impressive increases in all of our leading export categories,” says Katy Sinnott, vice president of international business development for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. “The importance of exporting in driving Wisconsin’s economy is clear, and we are hopeful this growth will continue.”

An increase in military vehicle purchases brought Saudi Arabia into the top five destinations (#4) for Wisconsin exports during the first half of 2017, with $476 million worth of exports sent to Saudi Arabia during those six months. Because of these purchases by Saudi Arabia, Wisconsin’s exports of non-rail vehicles and parts—already the state’s fourth-largest export category—increased by 36 percent to $1.0 billion. 

Also among the top five Wisconsin export destinations are Canada (#1 at $3.4 billion in the first half of 2017), Mexico (#2 at $1.6 billion), China (#3 at $825 million) and the UK (#5 at $400 million). Japan and Germany placed next at #6 ($388 million) and #7 ($342 million) respectively. 

Wisconsin’s top two export categories—industrial machinery and medical and scientific instruments—grew by modest amounts (1.6 percent and 0.5 percent, respectively) during the first six months of 2017, compared to the first half of 2016. The state’s third-largest export category, electrical machinery, grew by 15.2 percent to surpass $1 billion during the same time period. 

Looking at “supercategories” of exports that combine multiple product description codes provides additional insights into export growth trends. For example, the biotechnology and health care “supercategory” was one where exports for the U.S. as a whole declined by 5.0 percent in the first half of 2017 compared to the first half of 2016—but Wisconsin’s exports in this supercategory increased by 12.1 percent, placing Wisconsin 12th among the 50 states for exports in this supercategory. Exports to a few countries accounted for the bulk of this increase: Wisconsin’s biotechnology and health care exports to France increased by $35 million, and exports to Canada in this supercategory grew by $33 million. Iceland was the country that saw the largest percentage increase in this supercategory: Iceland’s biotechnology and health care imports from Wisconsin saw a nearly fourfold increase in the first half of 2017, compared to the value imported during the first half of 2016.