The Manufacturing Industry in Iowa

Since agriculture is such a big part of life in Iowa, it makes sense that the manufacture of farm machinery and other agriculture-related products developed in the state. Some of the country's first tractor and combine manufacturers started in Iowa. However, the United States military, astronauts, builders, educators and research scientists all over the world also rely on products made by Iowa's manufacturing industries.

Iowa factories historically were located in the eastern part of the state, where there were larger cities. Early Iowa industry was mainly "primary manufacturing.” Primary manufacturing is when a factory or mill produces an item that is not much different than the raw material. For example, grist mills ground wheat into flour, which is a simple stage removed from wheat. 

After railroads reached Iowa in the 1860s, it became much easier for Iowa factories to receive raw materials from places outside the state and to ship their products long distances. Iowa manufacturing began to change into “secondary manufacturing.” Larger, more complicated items including tractors and combines were a few of Iowa's early specialties. 

In time, the manufacture of non-agriculture related products began in the state. Home appliances, cars, recreational vehicles, construction and forestry equipment have been manufactured in Iowa. The design and production of aviation equipment and the mining of minerals are also part of Iowa's manufacturing history.