Preparing Iowa's Manufacturing for the Future

Mar 12, 2021

Businesses from all industries have been impacted by COVID-19 and will need long-term support and innovative solutions to recover. We must prepare for an ever-changing future full of unexpected challenges.

The manufacturing industry has made vital contributions to the ICR region. According to the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), in 2017 (latest data available), the ICR region exported almost $1.4 billion in products to all over the world. Machinery, chemicals, processed foods, transportation equipment, computer & electronic products and beverage products are among Iowa’s top ten exported items, many of which are made in our region. And manufacturing doesn’t just make up our largest employers. The latest USTR data available from 2016 indicates 83 percent, or 2,616 of Iowa companies that exported goods, were small and medium sized (SME) with fewer than 500 employees.

Some argue that because of our manufacturing diversity, our region has weathered the economic storms of 2020 better than other areas in the country. That is one reason why preparing this industry into the future is a priority.

In February, Director Debi Durham of the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) presented Manufacturing 4.0 to the Economic Alliance’s Economic Development Innovation Council. The strategic plan was developed by an industry-led working group with the goal to address the challenges of the 4th industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0, including adopting technology, increasing productivity, competing for talent and ongoing globalization.

The Manufacturing 4.0 plan includes five strategic priorities, including adapting Iowa’s economic development incentives to encourage the manufacturing industry’s investment in emerging technologies. The Economic Alliance is pleased to remain a part of the idea generating conversations that will work to maintain Iowa’s manufacturing leadership role into the future. Read the Manufacturing 4.0 executive summary and full report at Be on the lookout for more programing on Manufacturing 4.0 presented by the Economic Alliance.

Upcoming Advocacy Events

Don’t miss the next Public Policy Business Leader Discussion on March 26 from 3 - 4 p.m. Once again business leaders will share thoughts with legislators, as well as allowing attendees an opportunity to weigh in. Register in advance at

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