Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Feeding the Red Dragon

Governor Doyle's trip to China has highlighted Wisconsin's strong export growth to the world's largest country. A recent article in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel points out that the state's growth in exports to China grew at an annual average of 23% over the last decade and jumped 29% just last year. In this time, China has become Wisconsin's third largest trading partner behind Canada and Mexico.

This growth trend shows no sign of abating.

Looking at the most recent export statistics, we see that Wisconsin exports to China accelerated at an even faster clip than usual in 2007. In the first quarter of 2007, $297 million worth of Wisconsin goods were exported to China. This represents an impressive 75% increase in exports over the first quarter of 2006. Although this is just three month's worth of data, Wisconsin moves up from China's 19th largest US state trade partner, to 14th largest. Not bad for a state that ranks 20th in population.

Wisconsin's export increase to China was fueled by a $71 million year-over-year gain in exports from the state's machinery manufacturers - think engines, turbines, mining equipment and other industrial machines.

In other words, if the past decade was good for Wisconsin-China trade, 2007 might be exponential. Maybe Wisconsin manufacturers are beginning to get the picture when it comes to competing with China: stop trying to slay the Red Dragon - feed it exports instead.

So, what does all this mean for the typical Wisconsinite? It means that if you need a job, a good place to look would be to our export related industries. For example, in my neighborhood there is a large manufacturer of mining machines, P&H. I encourage you to take a look at their current job openings on their website. WARNING: It's going to take you awhile to view all of the listed jobs as the list seems to go on forever.

The problem for P&H and other high-end manufacturers has been finding skilled workers to fill current opening. This problem should only worsen as baby-boomers drop out of the workforce over the next twenty years.

With China's continuing hunger for highly-engineered manufactured products showing signs of acceleration, it's logical that we step up efforts to train workers. A strong partnership between local, state and federal government, private foundations and the employer's themselves will be needed to meet our workforce development needs.

No comments: