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Wisconsin and Manufacturing Go Together Like Cheese and Packers

Wisconsin Manufacturing

Today we begin the journey back home, reshoring from our World of Manufacturing series to discover incredible manufacturing efforts in the good ol’ US of A. In the next few weeks we will be talking about the Top 20 US Manufacturing States by GDP as well as the industries and trends that fuel their economy.

Wisconsin, although best known for the Packers, cheese, and the Harley-Davidson Museum, has a robust manufacturing sector that contributes greatly to the overall economy. And according to Forbes magazine, it is #27 in the list of Best States for Business. Inside the manufacturing sector, we can highlight several key industries with the biggest contributors to their GDP being the following:

Paper Manufacturing

Only last year, the state generated 5.3 million tons of paper. The important thing about this industry is that it helps the promotion of production chains since there are other industries in the state of Wisconsin associated with the paper industry.

The industry generates around 5 billion dollars each year and is the biggest employer in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources calculates that the employment is divided between 2 areas. Converted Paper Product Manufacturing area and in the pulp, paper, and paperboard mills area. The state employs 8.3% or about 1 out of every 12 of the United States paper industry workers. When combined, paper and allied firms account for 1 in every 11 manufacturing jobs within the state.

Dairy Manufacturing

America’s Dairy land. It’s not a slogan that they have chosen without earning. Dairy means a lot to Wisconsin. For example, it contributes four times more to Wisconsin’s economy than citrus to Florida’s.  According to Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, the sector contributes $43.4 billion annually to Wisconsin’s economy. That’s why this state is the nation’s leading dairy producer. With a strong specialization in producing cheese, around 90% of Wisconsin milk is designated to cheese-making. For years, the history of the state has been deeply linked to this product.

In 1890, the first dairy school was created in Wisconsin, and in 1920, it became the first state to create laws and regulations for dairy. In that same decade, Wisconsin was already classifying the milk for its quality. It is no wonder why in 1910 it became the number one cheese producing state, passing New York. Wisconsin is also the only U.S. state that requires that a licensed cheese maker supervise the making of commercial cheese, which says a lot about the importance they give to the creation of the product.

Information and Technology 

While their technology industry is not necessarily manufacturing-based, we know that technological advancement leads to a flourishing manufacturing sector. This industry has been developing quickly in the past two decades. When we talk about IT in Wisconsin, we mainly speak of the Madison region. Here, the industry grew around 31% from the year 2010 until 2015. In 2016, Madison saw a 145% increase in venture capital funding for startups. While the total investment and revenues themselves are far from the likes of Silicon Valley, it is still very impressive especially when you compare the operational costs of Wisconsin with, for example, California.

Today the Madison region is one of the most successful clusters within the IT industry. It serves not only as a bastion for entrepreneurs in technology but also as a new area for enterprises to establish locations and make more profits than in traditional areas. The Madison tech sector specializes in software publishing, computer systems design, games development and healthcare information technology. All this development is thanks to the highly sophisticated transportation system, quality infrastructure, highly educated and diverse workforce, and the role that the University of Wisconsin-Madison plays in encouraging research and partnerships.

Wisconsin seems to be doing well for itself, showing growth in many directions. However, while we see increases in Wisconsin’s rate of employment and GDP, we are hesitant to report it is not at the same rate as national numbers. Will recent hikes in technology send manufacturing economic indicators sky rocking? Perhaps, but one thing is for sure, Wisconsin is moving in the right direction.

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