WAUKESHA - A report from Gov. Scott
Walker’s office Thursday revealed that the state’s
exports increased in 2014 to reach an all-time high;
however, one area leader feels there is still a lot of
untapped potential in southeastern Wisconsin.
Badger State businesses exported $23.43
billion worth of goods in 2014, the most ever for the
state and a 1.4 percent increase compared to 2013.
Exports have increased by 18.3 percent in Wisconsin
during the past four years, according to the report.
Roxanne Baumann, director of global
engagement for Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension
Partnership, said her initial reaction to the report was
happiness, but that was tempered by the knowledge that
the amount could be much higher if more company
executives recognized their own potential.
“That’s wonderful, but there is so much
more here. Don’t sit on your laurels; we have so much
more work to do,” Baumann said of the report, which
indicated the two most significant increases in export
shipments were to Canada and Mexico.
Exports to Mexico increased by 12.7
percent to $2.84 billion, primarily because of an
increase in the export of vehicle parts, plastics, and
dairy products, according to the report. Exports to
Canada went up 5.5 percent to $7.94 billion, due
primarily to an increase in organic chemicals, ethanol,
fur skins and beverage exports, according to the report.
Wisconsin’s agricultural exports rose by 13.6 percent in
2014 to a record $3.7 billion.
“This is great news for Wisconsin
farmers, as well as businesses of all sizes and all
industries,” Walker said in a statement.
“We are taking the necessary steps to
improve our business climate, and help Wisconsin
companies improve their position in the global market.
Promoting Wisconsin business and products in helping job
creators realize that exporting can open the doors to
new markets and new customers. The latest
record-breaking numbers are a true indication that our
efforts are paying off.”
WMEP is a not-for-profit organization
that works with small- to mid-sized Wisconsin
manufacturers to make them more profitable and
competitive. Baumann said WMEP is aligned with the
Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and the U.S.
Department of Commerce to create an export expansion
“We want to take them from reactive and
accidental and turn them into proactive, strategic
exporters,” Baumann said.
Executives are asked such questions as
what is the company’s value proposition and why is the
product special. Market research is also conducted to
determine a company’s four or five best country matches
“I want them pushing in a place where it
is a low-hanging fruit and it’s pretty good that they
are going to get success,” Baumann said.
Some of the companies WMEP has worked
with have had $1 million in sales in about nine months
after graduating with a plan, she said.
A report from the Metropolitan Milwaukee
Association of Commerce at the end of January said data
suggested there was no growth in domestic sales in
southeastern Wisconsin during the past 10 years, Baumann
said, adding the only growth that southeastern Wisconsin
has seen is with exports.
To encourage companies to explore
exporting, Baumann said, the WEDC is offering $25,000
grants per company to access markets.
“It will never get any easier than it is
right now for a company to expand their exports,” she
Wisconsin saw increases in other key
sectors, including water-technology-related products (up
7.4 percent to $5.03 billion); biotechnology (up 6.8
percent to $3.11 billion); and health care (1 percent
increase to $1.89 billion).
The state’s top export category remains
industrial machinery with $6.37 billion in goods
exported in 2014, accounting for 27 percent of all state
exports, according to the report. The second-largest
product category is medical and scientific instruments,
which accounts for 9 percent of all state exports at