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They’re the words Iowa manufacturers have been waiting all year to hear: “Things are looking up.”

Iowa manufacturers expect increased sales, employment and capital investments in the first quarter (January-March), according to the results of the latest ABI Quarterly Iowa Business Survey.

“The survey results are incredibly positive for Iowa’s economy,” said ABI President Mike Ralston. “This is a great way to build momentum as we begin the new year.”

Approximately half of ABI’s 1,500 member companies are manufacturers. The association represents nearly every industry in Iowa.

Iowa manufacturers may not be alone.

“From what I’m hearing, the U.S. manufacturing economy is growing, and there are many positive signs in other parts of the world, as well,” he said.

ABI surveyed its board members in early December 2020. The survey found:

  • 55% of survey respondents expect sales to expand over the next quarter.
  • 52% expect the number of employees in their business to grow in Q1. That’s compared to 37% last quarter.
  • 68% of survey respondents plan to make capital expenditures in Q1. That’s compared to 57% last quarter.

The news isn’t all positive, however. Workforce shortages continue to plague Iowa manufacturers.

“The biggest issue is finding people who want to work and learn a trade,” said Ralston. “Manufacturers are experiencing shortages at every level of their operation.”

The situation was made even worse by the pandemic.

“Since we first started conducting these surveys in 2017, this is the most concerned I’ve seen ABI members about labor availability,” he warned.

The survey results may be found at https://bit.ly/3gPnpBl.