Wisconsin: Helping Manufacturers Succeed
16 Mar, 2020By: Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation
With a strong foundation in logistics, the Badger State has the resources businesses need to thrive.
Logistics and access to markets are universal challenges facing companies of every kind—and in this area in particular, Wisconsin excels at delivering solutions. The state’s logistics infrastructure is robust and well-established, and recent decisions to site major projects in Wisconsin indicate that business leaders recognize this strength.
With resources that help manufacturers adapt to Industry 4.0 and make the most of new technologies, Wisconsin is helping its companies stay on the front lines of innovation. And with initiatives to help attract skilled workers and develop new talent, Wisconsin is addressing the workforce challenges that are a pressing concern for so many companies.
Access to Markets
From Wisconsin’s central location in the Midwest, 40 percent of U.S. and Canadian manufacturers are reachable within a day’s drive. Wisconsin’s roads, railways and ports provide seamless, convenient access to the world’s busiest multimodal transportation hub, located just 55 miles south of the state’s border. With 13 commercial ports, eight commercial airports and three Foreign-Trade Zones within the state’s borders, Wisconsin offers easy access to markets worldwide.
Wisconsin’s largest transportation hub is Milwaukee, which ships 2.3 million metric tons of cargo per year via Lake Michigan and is responsible for more than $106 million in economic activity annually. Wisconsin’s strength in logistics extends well beyond the southeast part of the state to help connect companies to global markets.
Also bordering Lake Michigan, greater Green Bay has 11,000 jobs in transportation and logistics, and has the 18th-largest employment concentration in the transportation and logistics industry in the U.S. These jobs are increasingly in high-skilled fields such as engineering, as this industry—like so many others—becomes increasingly technology-driven.
In northwest Wisconsin on Lake Superior, the Twin Ports region consisting of Superior, Wis., and Duluth, Minn., is the largest port in the Great Lakes by tonnage. Served by highway, air and rail connections, the Duluth-Superior port can also serve as a connection point for shipments to Asia—goods and commodities sent by train westward through Canada can depart North America via British Columbia and arrive faster than if sent on the more southerly route through California.
Company Expansions Show Confidence
Wisconsin’s infrastructure strengths benefit businesses of all types, but companies within the logistics sector in particular are recognizing this excellence with their decisions to locate in the state. Amazon opened a $250 million distribution and fulfillment center in Kenosha in 2014; another distribution and fulfillment center, this one with $200 million in capital investment, is being constructed in Oak Creek with a projected 2020 opening date; and the company has received preliminary approvals for a 1 million-square-foot distribution center in Beloit.
Uline, a distributor of shipping, packaging and industrial materials, relocated from Illinois to Pleasant Prairie, Wis., in 2010. In 2019, the company announced expansion plans encompassing more than 1.5 million square feet of new space in two distribution centers in Kenosha.
Wisconsin is also fertile ground for startups in the logistics sector, as new companies benefit from the presence of talent with relevant skills and larger logistics companies serve as test cases for their technologies. Madison-based SwanLeap, which uses a proprietary artificial intelligence platform to help large manufacturers and other clients optimize their supply chains and save money on shipping, was Inc.’s No. 1 fastest-growing company in the U.S. in 2018. Green Bay-based MatchBack Systems, which reduces costs and environmental impacts by matching shipping containers empty after delivery with nearby goods awaiting shipment, has received local, state and national awards for its innovative software.
Companies choosing to locate in Wisconsin reinforce the importance of logistics in making expansion decisions. Komatsu Mining Corp. selected the Milwaukee Harbor District as the location for its 2.5-million-square-foot campus, which will house the company’s headquarters as well as advanced machine, heat treat and fabrication shops; state-of-the-art technology, research and development, and robotics labs; an office complex and data solutions center; and a global training and conference center.
Sub-Zero, the leading U.S.-based manufacturer of refrigeration, freezer and wine storage products, recently announced plans to expand its Wisconsin presence with a 350,000-square-foot research and development facility in Fitchburg. The company’s headquarters is located nearby in Madison, and the company has more than 1,700 employees in Wisconsin.
Although Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. maintains its headquarters in Savannah, Ga., the company chose Appleton, Wis., as the location to grow its maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) operations. The $40 million project, expected to create 171 new jobs over a three-year period, constitutes 500,000 new square feet of hangar space.
Gulfstream, Sub-Zero, Komatsu, Amazon and Uline all received tax credits from the State of Wisconsin in exchange for job creation and capital investment.
A Tradition of Innovation
Leveraging the latest industry advancements gives manufacturers a competitive advantage. Recognizing that it requires an investment of time and resources to keep pace with the Internet of Things, automation, artificial intelligence and other technologies that are transforming manufacturing, Wisconsin has taken steps to help companies stay up to speed.
The Transformational Productivity Initiative (transformationalproductivity.org) offers a unique and comprehensive assessment model to help manufacturers prioritize actions to increase their productivity by implementing continuous improvement, as well as the integration of automation and digital technologies.
The Connected Systems Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee—a multidisciplinary collaboration with Rockwell Automation, Microsoft, WEDC and other industry leaders—offers physical space for companies and researchers alike to test new concepts, solve problems and share ideas that are market-ready.
Gateway Technical College, which has nine campuses in southeastern Wisconsin, recently broke ground on an $11.5 million expansion of its SC Johnson Integrated Manufacturing and Engineering Technology (iMET) Center, which will be a truly world-class installation of Industry 4.0 to prepare students for the high-tech manufacturing jobs of today and tomorrow. And Wisconsin is one of 10 U.S. states selected to take part in the Policy Academy on Strengthening Manufacturers, a year-long program offered by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
These initiatives are designed to help manufacturers across the state connect the dots between their current business practices, industry standards and innovative new technologies—so that they can move forward with new technologies while minimizing the precious time and resources spent on trial and error.
Wisconsin recognizes that in a tight labor market, workforce development initiatives will set it apart from other states. The state’s Fabrication Laboratories (Fab Labs) Grant Program provides matching funds for public schools to purchase equipment that helps students put science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics (STEAM) skills into practice and prepare for the high-tech manufacturing jobs of the future. And state government has partnered with employers to visit career summits for military veterans who are completing their service and preparing to re-enter civilian life—thus easing the transition process for veterans and providing a path for them to apply their existing skills for a new purpose.
These initiatives show how Wisconsin seeks creative solutions to help its employers connect with the skilled workers they need to fill new positions and continue to grow. T&ID
Want to learn more about all Wisconsin has to offer? Contact Mary Perry, director of business and investment attraction, at 608.210.6740 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Enterprise Zone Tax Credit: Refundable tax credits for companies undertaking major expansion projects in Wisconsin or relocating major business operations from other states to Wisconsin.
Business Development Tax Credit: Refundable tax credits for companies remaining, expanding or relocating in Wisconsin.
Manufacturing and Agriculture Tax Credit: Virtually eliminates the tax on income from manufacturing activity in Wisconsin. The credit amounts to 7.5 percent, which results in an effective corporate tax rate of 0.4 percent.
Workforce Training Grants: Grants for businesses to upgrade or improve the job-related skills of their full-time employees.
Business Development Loans: Provides financing primarily to small businesses that have limited access to standard types of debt or equity funding.
Qualified New Business Venture Certification: Allows investors in early-stage companies to claim a 25 percent tax credit on the amount they invest into a certified business.
Industrial Revenue Bonds: A unique type of revenue bond organized and issued by a state or local government, the proceeds of which are directed to a private, for-profit business.
Wisconsin’s Drive ‘Forward’ Means Opportunities for Businesses
Wisconsin is well known for the can-do attitude of its people and a history of innovation that established the state as a manufacturing powerhouse—and that continues to create new solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges in health care, food and beverage production and sustainable energy and water use. The state’s unfettered optimism and continuous drive to produce positive outcomes is reflected in its motto: “Forward.”
Wisconsin boasts high school graduation rates among the best in the nation and a public university system recognized for the breadth and quality of its programs. The state was also the first in the nation to develop a technical college system, giving Wisconsin 100 years of experience training its workforce to fulfill ever-changing industry demands.
The state’s commitment to maintaining its competitive edge through business-friendly tax and regulatory policies and investments in its people, communities and industries spells opportunity for companies looking to start up, grow and thrive.
For more information, visit wedc.org. --Governor Tony Evers