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How businesses with international ties may adapt their operations during the invasion of Ukraine

Experts believe the unrest could force many U.S. companies to relocate overseas operations back in the states.

IOWA, USA — As the world turns its attention to the invasion of Ukraine, business experts are monitoring the impact the conflict will have on international companies.

"So many of our Iowa companies have a presence in Ukraine," said Drake Professor of International Business and Strategy Matthew Mitchell. "And they've been monitoring the situation for many months."

Mitchell says priority number one for these companies with direct Ukrainian ties will be to ensure employee safety. 

"I would imagine most of them have been evacuated by this point," Mitchell said.

But as the conflict continues, he believes many companies will take a hard look at how much they rely on overseas operations.

"Yes, at Ukraine. Yes, at Russia. But also broadening that out to 'What are my operations in Eastern Europe? Or is there a significant risk to those operations?'"

Mitchell believes those uncertainties might spark a change for companies, and anticipates a shift in companies bringing that work done abroad back to the United States. It's a transition he says was already underway for many companies after the pandemic threw a wrench in a variety of industry supply chains.

"We're recognizing that we need to be a little bit more self-sufficient," Mitchell said. "That we're recognizing that we need to not only depend on foreign nations for production of all materials."

That awakening is one Iowa is poised well to absorb, he thinks.

"Iowa is supremely well-positioned from a cost of labor perspective, a trained and educated workforce, a history in manufacturing and agriculture. Iowa is just so well positioned to be competitive in this nationalized talent market."

Local 5 reached out to a number of Iowa companies with international ties. 

A representative from John Deere says they had roughly 40 employees based in Ukraine. However, it evacuated any ex-pats beginning in January. The representative adds the company does not operate a factory in Ukraine, but it does have a sales office. That office is now closed. 

The spokesperson adds:

"The safety, welfare, and well-being of our employees in the region remains our top priority, and we continue to maintain close communication with our affected teams, providing necessary resources when possible."

300 Deere employees are stationed in Russia with one factory and one parts depot. Those currently remain in operation. 

Another major Iowa company, Pioneer, also has employees abroad. 

A spokesperson shared this statement with Local 5: 

"Corteva Agriscience is closely monitoring the situation in Ukraine. The safety of our employees is our top priority. We are also evaluating the impact on business continuity and advise customers to contact their local representative to assess any impact on customer deliveries. We are working hard to keep our employees safe and support our teams."

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