Nicknamed the “Badger State” or “America’s Dairyland” and located in the Midwest and Great Lakes region within the north-central United States, Wisconsin shipped US$22.7 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2018. That dollar amount reflects a 1.8% increase from 2017 to 2018 and a 1.2% gain since 2015.
Wisconsin is America’s 19th-biggest exporter by state well behind front-runners including Texas, California, New York and Washington states. The value of Wisconsin’s exports equals 1.4% of United States’ overall exported products for 2018.
Based on statistics from the US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), Wisconsin’s exported products represent 6.6% of the state’s total economic output or real Gross Domestic Product in 2018 ($342.5 billion in current dollars based on BEA statistics).
Given Wisconsin’s population of 5.814 million people, its total $22.7 billion in 2018 exports translates to roughly $3,900 for every resident in the Badger State.
Wisconsin’s unemployment rate was 2.8% at April 2019 down from 2.9% as of March 2018, per YCharts.
Wisconsin’s Top 10 Exports
The following export products represent the highest dollar value in Wisconsin global shipments during 2018. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Wisconsin.
Figures are shown at the more granular six-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, for more precise product identification.
- Aircraft including engines, parts: US$647 million (2.8% of Wisconsin’s total exports)
- Computed tomography equipment: $359 million (1.6%)
- Battery waste, scrap: $325 million (1.4%)
- Outboard engines for marine vessels: $275 million (1.2%)
- Natural sands of silica, quartz: $269 million (1.2%)
- Spark-ignition piston engine parts: $268 million (1.2%)
- Electro-diagnostic apparatus: $248 million (1.1%)
- Non-pharmaceutical composite diagnostic/lab reagents: $240 million (1.1%)
- Miscellaneous plastic articles: $224 million (1%)
- Electric static converters: $222 million (1%)
Wisconsin’s top 10 exports accounted for 13.6% of the overall value of the state’s global shipments.
Natural sands of silica and quartz were the fastest-growing among the top 10 export categories, up by 69.2% from 2017 to 2018.
In second place for improving export sales were spark-ignition piston engine parts which rose 51.4%.
Wisconsin’s shipments of electric static converters posted the third-fastest gain in value, up by 21.3%.
The leading decliner among Wisconsin’s top 10 export products was aircraft including engines and other parts which fell -10.6% year over year.
More Key Facts
Overall, Wisconsin incurred an -$8.3 billion deficit exporting and importing products during 2018. That dollar amount reflects a 52.1% year-over-year increase from -$5.4 billion in red ink in 2017.
Another way of saying surplus or deficit is positive or negative net exports. In a nutshell, the term “net exports” quantifies the amount by which foreign spending on a state’s goods or services exceeds or lags that same state’s spending on foreign goods or services.
Below are Wisconsin’s top 10 import products highlighting the state’s highest spending on foreign-made goods in 2018.
- Human-use vaccines: $2.8 billion (9.2% of Wisconsin’s total imports)
- Hand tools with electric motors: $698 million (2.3%)
- Miscellaneous medications: $631 million (2%)
- Cotton sweaters, pullovers: $377 million (1.2%)
- Electro-diagnostic apparatus: $281 million (0.9%)
- Chemical woodpulp (coniferous): $278 million (0.9%)
- Manmade fiber sweaters, pullovers: $277 million (0.9%)
- Piston engine parts: $276 million (0.9%)
- Electric static converters: $266 million (0.9%)
- X-ray, high tension panels: $219 million (0.7%)
Wisconsin has highly negative net exports in the international trade of human-use vaccines and hand tools with electric motors. In turn, these cashflows indicate Wisconsin’s strong competitive disadvantages under these categories thus showing the strong impact of foreign-made vaccines and related goods on Wisconsin’s balance sheet.
The following list shows the top 10 customers that purchased almost three-quarters (72.9%) worth of the total value of products exported from Wisconsin during 2018.
- Canada: $7 billion (30.9% of Wisconsin’s total exports)
- Mexico: $3.5 billion (15.2%)
- China: $1.6 billion (7.2%)
- Germany: $814 million (3.6%)
- United Kingdom: $792 million (3.5%)
- Japan: $734 million (3.2%)
- South Korea: $591 million (2.6%)
- Australia: $573 million (2.5%)
- France: $498 million (2.2%)
- Netherlands: $449 million (2%)
Wisconsin’s top trade partners in North America, Canada and Mexico, represent close to one-half (46.1%) of the overall value of exported goods from the state.
Wisconsin Export Companies
Twenty-three of Wisconsin-headquartered corporations rank among America’s largest companies as documented in the Fortune 1000 listing. Selected examples are shown below.
- Oshkosh Corporation (specialty trucks, military vehicles)
- Harley-Davidson (motorcycles)
- Rockwell Automation (industrial automation systems)
- Fiserv (financial services technology)
- Bemis Company (flexible packaging, pressure-sensitive materials)
- Snap-on Incorporated (industrial tools, equipment)
- CUNA Mutual Group (financial services)
- Regal Beloit Corporation (electric motors)
- A. O. Smith Corporation (water boilers, heaters, tanks, treatment)
- Plexus Corporation (electronic products)
Shown within brackets for each company is a summary of the international trade-related product category or services in which each business deals.
Wisconsin’s capital is Madison, a city nicknamed Mad City and the Four Lakes City.
See also America’s Top 20 Export States, United States Top 10 Exports and Top United States Trade Balances
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Department of Numbers, Wisconsin GDP (dollars shown in real terms). Accessed on June 18, 2019
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Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on June 18, 2019
United States Census Bureau, Foreign Trade (State by 6-Digit HS Code). Accessed on June 18, 2019
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