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5 Reasons Why Manufacturing Is Easier in Iowa

September 15, 2022

Iowa has earned a reputation as a national leader in advanced manufacturing, with the third highest concentration of manufacturing workers in the country. Iowa’s 4,100 manufacturers produce everything from food products and construction machinery to aerospace products and pharmaceuticals. The industry generates $31 billion annually for the state’s economy, and manufacturing employment in Iowa has grown over the past 30 years, despite an overall decrease in manufacturing jobs across the U.S. How are so many manufacturers finding success in Iowa? 

  1. Supply Chain Management

In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, companies all over the globe have struggled to keep enough inventory and ship products in a timely manner. While Iowa also felt the pain of supply chain issues, the state was better positioned to combat the problem through vertical integration made possible in part due to the integration of Manufacturing 4.0 technologies. Skye Witherspoon, CEO of Sky Factory, which produces virtual skylights, explained that having more control over the manufacturing and fabrication process has made it much easier to manage the supply chain. “We’re in a much better position than if we were relying on an outside vendor to build things for us,” Witherspoon said. 

  1. Environment Suited for Businesses Big and Small

No matter the size of the business, Iowa is willing to invest time and resources into helping it succeed. In Tolerance, a precision build-to-print company primarily for the aerospace industry, has just 49 employees but has seen great success through the Iowa Manufacturing 4.0 approach. Chief Operating Officer John Renning said that the company took small steps that created big impacts for the company. “A small company with a little bit of investment can really make a difference in the automation world. You don’t need to be a large company with huge capital to invest,” Renning said. 

  1. Programs in Place to Support Companies and Foster Growth

Organizations across Iowa are dedicated to helping businesses face change and compete globally. Manufacturing is constantly evolving, so whether companies want to focus on increasing profits, adopting technology or attracting talent, there is an organization that can help achieve these goals. One organization in particular, Iowa State University’s Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS), helps companies identify goals and build momentum. “We work with companies to understand their needs, tailor solutions to work for your specific business, and stick with you to make sure that the change lasts,” said Michael O’Donnell, Associate Director at CIRAS. 

  1. State, Local and Leadership Support

Both the State of Iowa and its communities understand the importance of the manufacturing industries. State-sponsored grants and local business alliances help owners feel supported, even during difficult economic times. Renning stated that strong, consistent leadership has been present in Iowa year after year. “There’s a belief in manufacturing and strong support. It does a lot when you have a leader who is consistent and believes in you.”

  1. Hardworking and Dedicated Individuals

Ultimately, when you ask business owners and manufacturing experts why they see success in Iowa, it comes down to one thing: the people. “We have a really wonderful team. That’s why I love running a company in Iowa, and that’s one of the reasons that I love living in Iowa,” Witherspoon said.

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