The Biggest Industries In Iowa

Wind turbines on a farm in Iowa on a cloudy day.
Wind turbines on a farm in Iowa on a cloudy day.

Iowa is the thirtieth most populous and twenty-sixth largest by area of all the American states. Iowa has a population of about 3,156,145 people with the most highly populated city being Des Moines. Iowa is situated in the Midwestern U.S., and it is surrounded by 6american states (Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri, Wisconsin, and Illinois), Missouri River, and Mississippi River. Iowa was part of Spanish Louisiana and French Louisiana during the colonial times, and its flag resembles the flag of France. After the U.S. purchased Louisiana from the French, the locals started an agricultural-based economy in the region. The agricultural economy of Iowa transitioned to a diversified economy of green-energy production, biotechnology, information technology, financial services, processing, and manufacturing.   

The Economy Of Iowa

The CNBC listed Iowa as one of the best states in the U.S. for business in 2010. It topped the list of states to do business when it came to the cost-of-doing-business, and this included the utility costs and taxes, among other costs associated with running businesses. The state was also ranked twelfth in Business friendliness, and twenty-ninth in technology and innovations. Even though Iowa is still considered to be a farming state, agriculture is a very small percentage of the state’s economy. Other sectors that contribute to Iowa’s economy include insurance and financial services, biotechnology, and manufacturing. Iowa had a GDP of $170.75billion in 2018, and the unemployment rate dropped from 3.4% in 2015 to 2.6% in July 2018.   

The Biggest Industries In Iowa


Even though industrial-scale commodity-agriculture is common in Iowa, the state has experienced growth in the organic-farming sector. The number of organic farms increased by 5% in 2016 to 732 organic farms in Iowa. The size of land used for organic farming increased by 9,429acres to 103,136organic acres in 2016. The state has also experienced a growth in the demand for locally sustainably-grown food with northeast Iowa leading in the development of the regional food system. The Driftless part of Iowa is home to Seed Saver Exchange, the largest non-governmental seed bank in the country. Seed Saver Exchange protects more than 20,000varieties of heirloom seeds.

The direct sale and production of conventional agricultural products in 2007 contributed about 3.5% of the state’s GDP. The impact of indirect role-of-agriculture in the state’s economy was estimated to be 24.3% in terms of total-output and 16.4% in terms of value-added. The state’s main conventional products included dairy products, eggs, hogs, cattle, oats, soybeans, and corn. Iowa is one of the biggest producers of soybeans, corn, and ethanol in the United States. 92,600 farms in the state produced 14% of the country’s eggs, 30% of the pigs, 17% of the soybeans, and 19% of the corn. A considerable percentage of the agricultural produce in Iowa is exported to Japan, Mexico, and Canada. Some of the main agricultural commodities processors in Iowa include Heartland Pork Enterprises, Garst Seed Company, Ajinomoto, and Archer Daniels Midland, among others.


The most significant industry in Iowa, which contributed $20.8 billion on the state’s GDP in 2003, is the manufacturing sector. The manufacturing sector has employed over 16% of Iowa’s workforce. Some of the major manufacturing sectors in Iowa include agricultural chemicals, heavy machinery, and food processing, among others. Deere and Company has plants in Waterloo, Ottumwa, Dubuque, Des Moines, and Davenport. The biggest component of Iowa’s manufacturing industry is the food processing sector. Other industrial outputs in Iowa include primary metals, chemical products, electric equipment, and machinery. Some of the firms with indirect or direct processing facilities in this state include Heinz, Barilla, Wells, Blue Bunny, Quaker Oats, General Mills, and Tone’s Spices, among others.     

Renewable Energies And Fuel

Iowa is the premier leader in renewable energy production in the United States. The state’s legacy in manufacturing excellence and the strong agricultural foundation has helped Iowa excel in other sectors, including renewable fuel production and wind energy. Renewable energy has become one of the leading economic forces in Iowa with wind-turbine electricity growing exponentially since the 1990s. Wind-power accounted for 15.4% of the electricity produced in Iowa in 2010 and installed 3,675megawatts of generating capacity. Iowa ranked second in wind power-generating capacity right behind Texas and topped the list of states in the U.S. that produce wind power in 2010.

Currently, Iowa is the top producer of ethanol in the U.S. and ranks second in biodiesel production. Iowa ranks third in the country in wind power generation output. Renewable fuels contribute about 8% of the state’s GDP, while ethanol production in Iowa consumes over 33.3% of the state’s corn production. In 2009, the 39ethanol plants in Iowa produced 3.1billion gallons of fuel.

Health Insurance

There were 14 companies offering health insurance packages in Iowa in 2014. According to a report produced by American-Medical Association (AMA) in 2013, Iowa was 1 of the 10 American states that experienced a drop in competition levels in the health insurance sector from 2010 to 2011. The AMA reported that Wellmark Blue-Cross Blue-Shield provided over 71% of the health insurance in Iowa in their 2007 annual report. According to the report produced by the Iowa Insurance Division in 2014, Wellmark Inc dominated numerous insurance markets, including large group, small group, and individual markets.

Other Industries

Service is the main economic activity in Iowa, particularly insurance, banking, and education. Iowa has a robust insurance and financial sector with over 6,100 companies, including Voya Financial, Wells Fargo, Principal Financial Group, Aviva USA, Nationwide Group, and AEGON, among others. The tourism sector is also crucial in Iowa, with some of the main attractions being Fort Madison and Lewis-and-Clark State Park. Iowa is home to over 2business incubators, including BioVentures Center and the Iowa-State University-Research Park at Iowa University. The Research Park in Iowa University hosts over 50firms, including NewLink Genetics.

Some of the main producers of components and turbines in Iowa include Siemens Energy, TPI Composites, and Acciona Energy. Iowa was home to the headquarters of 3 of the top 2,000 largest companies on the planet in terms of revenue by 2016.  These companies included American Equity Investment, Rockwell Collins, and Principal Financial. Other companies whose headquarters are based in Iowa include Fareway, Pioneer Hi-Bred, Von Maur, Vermeer Company, Pella Corporation, and Hy-Vee, among others.


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