Trains, Planes, and Pickups
Midwestern manufacturers are driving their states’ economies.
People assume agriculture fuels the Midwest’s fortunes, but manufacturing plays a key role, too.
The latter is the largest industry in Iowa, making up 17 percent of the state’s GDP. “We added 16,000 manufacturing jobs in 2014,” says Tina Hoffman, marketing and communications director at the state’s Economic Development Authority in Des Moines. As with agriculture, the market “has been contracting a bit” in the past two years, she notes. Nonetheless, building companies account for about 10 percent of Iowa’s 216,167 manufacturing jobs.
Though best known for aviation products, Kansas also has a thriving manufacturing industry. At Versaflex in Kansas City, sales of polyurea-based items are up by 10 percent in five years. President Dave Cercie expects more of the same in the future. “A large part of that will be based on continued infrastructure improvements on bridges and tunnels,” he explains. “We have good solutions for those types of problems.”
As for Missouri, “we’re a truck state,” says director Mike Downing of the Missouri Department of Economic Development in Jefferson City. He’s referencing a Ford F-150 plant in Kansas City and a GM plant in Wentzville. “Since 2009, we’ve created 16,200 automotive jobs, with over $2 billion in capital investment.”
Agriculture has declined in Nebraska thanks to corn’s plummeting prices. Manufacturing represents $14 billion of the state’s GDP, with building products accounting for less than a tenth of that. Bright spots are Kawasaki, which is making railcars for Washington, D.C.’s Metro, and Hastings HVAC, a leader in commercial heating and cooling goods. “We’re doing 10 to 15 percent better than last year,” says Hastings vice president Shawn Hartman, pointing out that this July was the best in the company’s 15-year history.
You can’t ask for more than that.