Built in Wisconsin

And now, an announcement from Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce:

Wisconsin companies make an impressive and incredibly diverse list of products, from U.S. Navy combat vessels and Harley Davidson motorcycles to the world’s best cheese and great beer to wash it down with. Now the Statewide Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with Johnson Financial Group, wants Wisconsinites to vote on which of those thousands of products is the Coolest Thing Made in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), which is the state’s combined Chamber of Commerce and Manufacturers’ Association, encourages people to nominate a Wisconsin made product by visiting http://www.madeinwis.com. Nominations are currently being accepted and will end August 31 with voting beginning in September. Johnson Financial Group is sponsoring the contest.

The winner will be announced on October 18 at the State of Wisconsin Business Luncheon Event. The date was selected because it is in October, which has been designated as Manufacturing Month in Wisconsin by Governor Walker since 2012. The goal of both Manufacturing Month and the Coolest Thing Made in Wisconsin contest is to celebrate Wisconsin’s largest business sector (20% of state GDP) and to promote manufacturing careers.

“We want to create more excitement and buzz around Manufacturing Month,” said Kurt R. Bauer, WMC president/CEO. “By undertaking this contest to determine What is the Coolest Thing Made in Wisconsin, we want manufacturers and Wisconsin residents to start nominating products on our website, and we want people, especially young people, to start a conversation about manufacturing and participate in voting in September.”

Will the winner be a Trek bicycle, a Marquis yacht, a Mercury Marine or Evinrude outboard engine, an Oshkosh Defense tactical vehicle, an Ariens snow throw, a Briggs & Stratton power washer, a Seagrave fire truck, a Case tractor, a Kohler bathroom fixture, Kikkoman soy sauce or a pair of Allen–Edmonds shoes?

“The list of possibilities is nearly endless and the more we talk about it, the more we educate people about what is made in Wisconsin, which creates awareness of Wisconsin’s manufacturing prowess and the career options available to young people,” Bauer said.

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) is the state’s chamber of commerce and manufacturers’ association. WMC represents 3,800 employers of all sizes and from every sector of the economy.

For more information or to enter a product in the contest, visit http://www.madeinwis.com.

One of the interesting facets of commuting along what was U.S. 41 and now is Interstate 41 was seeing vehicles along what you could call the Big Ass Truck Corridor from Oshkosh, home of Oshkosh Corp., to Grand Chute, home of Pierce Manufacturing, from which could be found fire trucks not going to Wisconsin fire departments. In my previous life as a business magazine editor I did stories about Oshkosh, Pierce, Marinette Marine (builder of the aforementioned Navy vessels), the owner of Marquis Yachts (in, of all places, Oconto), Mercury Marine, Ariens, Seagrave and Kohler from WMC’s list, as well as Marion Body Works (which builds fire trucks) and 3D Manufacturing, which became part of American LaFrance, which then closed it.

Fire trucks are an unexpected feature of Wisconsin’s business community if you don’t know the history. Fire trucks are about as complicated a piece a machinery as you can find, combining a large truck with a giant pump, with controls and wiring required to get it all to work. The former owner of 3D told me there are 100 shades of red paint for fire trucks, and that was more than a decade ago. As with other lines of work, many companies are the creations of former employees of other fire truck manufacturers who concluded they could do it better.

One unfortunate thing about the late 2000s Great Recession is that it almost killed Wisconsin’s car manufacturing industry. Only “almost,” because Johnson Controls is one of the nation’s biggest auto industry suppliers. However, around that time federally bailed out General Motors closed its Janesville plant, and federally bailed out Chrysler Corp. closed its Milwaukee and Kenosha engine plant two decades after Chrysler closed AMC’s Kenosha manufacturing and Milwaukee body plants. Chrysler inherited the Kenosha and Milwaukee plants from its purchase of American Motors Corp. AMC was the former Nash, formed in Kenosha in 1916 from the former Thomas B. Jeffrey Co., and Hudson, formed in Detroit in 1909; the two merged in 1954, though the further proposed merger with Studebaker and Packard didn’t happen.

This is a good competition, if that’s what you want to call it, because even after six years of the supposed pro-business party in charge in Madison, there remains insufficient appreciation of business in this state. I think it has to do with the state’s culture, in which too many Wisconsinites prefer to work for someone instead of going into business for themselves. That in part may be due to a cultural antipathy to failure in this state; entrepreneurs fail until they succeed, and it may be safer to work for someone than to work for yourself, though people who work for someone else never get very wealthy.



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