Ingenuity takes many forms in Wisconsin, and it starts with its people. When faced with the prospect of crossing a nearby lake to deliver ice cream to his girlfriend, Ole Evinrude, a Wisconsinite, invented the outboard boat motor in 1907. Similarly, Les Paul, also a Wisconsinite, solved the challenge of his acoustic guitar not being heard by drive-in restaurant diners by inventing the electric guitar in 1928.
Wisconsin’s legacy of ingenuity and innovative discoveries continues to this day, and is strengthened by more than $1 billion worth of annual research at the state’s flagship university producing new discoveries that are improving lives around the world. This commitment to innovation is reflected in Wisconsin’s strong business climate and deep talent pool, and helps instill a culture of collaboration to advance industries in the state.
The state’s deep roots in manufacturing and food and beverage production, coupled with strong leadership in water technology, energy, power and control, aerospace and bioscience, add to its appeal for businesses and top talent. In fact, global companies like Harley Davidson, Trek, Kohler, Epic Systems Corp., Rockwell Automation, and American Family Insurance, all benefit from and contribute to an environment in Wisconsin that is geared for success.
Building on Deep Manufacturing Roots
Wisconsin established its strength in manufacturing at the height of the industrial age, and that dedication to making high-quality products continues today. The state’s manufacturing industry encompasses more than 465,000 employees at over 9,300 companies, accounting for 17 percent of the state’s total employees.
Wisconsin’s manufactured goods adhere to a standard of quality that is known worldwide. This is especially true in the industrial machinery, medical and scientific instruments and electrical machinery industries, as these accounted for nearly half of Wisconsin’s manufacturing exports in 2015.
Another manufacturing specialization that’s drawing global attention is the state’s aerospace industry. More than 140 different Wisconsin companies work alongside industry giant Boeing, helping ensure its aircraft operate effectively and safely. The state’s growing aerospace expertise is also evidenced by the annual EAA AirVenture show, which takes place in Oshkosh, Wisconsin each year and brings in nearly 500,000 aviation enthusiasts from more than 60 countries.
Wisconsin helps encourage future growth in manufacturing with the Manufacturing and Agriculture Tax Credit, which virtually eliminates taxes on income from both manufacturing and food and beverage production.
Growing Prosperity in Food and Beverage
Perhaps best known for its cheese and dairy products, Wisconsin’s thriving food and beverage industry spans the spectrum of food production from farm to fork. The state leads the way in all aspects of the production cycle from growing to testing quality to packaging to research, ensuring customers get products faster, safer and fresher than ever before.
These qualities were key considerations for Alberta, Canada-based, The Little Potato Company, when it was searching for a U.S. head office and processing, washing, package and storage facility in 2016. After considering multiple locations in the Northeast and Midwest, the company chose to locate in DeForest, Wisconsin, and is investing more than $20 million in a new 130,000 square-foot facility, equipment and other initiatives designed to boost the company’s operational efficiency in North America.
“We are absolutely delighted to be opening our first U.S. facility in DeForest,” said Angela Santiago, co-founder and president of The Little Potato Company. “We know of Wisconsin’s reputation for its great growers and fertile land. In addition to its proximity to key markets, we chose DeForest because we recognize shared values that have long been important to us: family, community, helping others and always being down-to-earth.”
Helping anchor Wisconsin’s food and beverage industry is FaB Wisconsin, a statewide organization that provides funding and mentorship to companies of all specialties and sizes. FaB Wisconsin also helps encourage further growth in the sector through FaBcap, one of the few food and beverage focused startup accelerators in the country.
Taking the Lead in Water Technology
Situated between the two largest Great Lakes – Lake Michigan and Lake Superior – with another 15,000 lakes in its borders, Wisconsin is naturally poised for water technology success. More than 200 companies statewide leverage the state’s robust water technology assets to make discoveries and commercialize solutions that help solve the world’s water challenges.
Additionally, the state’s water industry helps support other critical industries, including manufacturing and food and beverage. Both industries rely heavily on water-technology innovation to help their processes remain efficient and sustainable.
Much of the water industry’s activity and innovation is centered on The Water Council. Formed in 2009, the organization leverages the state’s water expertise to promote industry development across the state, while also promoting sustainability initiatives worldwide.
The Water Council also offers a suite of programs to help existing water tech companies expand, or new ones to take off. One such program is The BREW (Business. Research. Entrepreneurship. In Wisconsin.) accelerator, which helps water-focused startups to hone business plans and seek new sources of funding.
Under the Water Council’s leadership, the Global Water Center was opened in Milwaukee in 2013 and now serves as a hub for research and development conducted collaboratively by leading businesses and educational institutions in what has been described as the “Silicon Valley of water technology.” The center has helped spur interest in the redevelopment of what has become known as Milwaukee’s Water Technology District, which attracted more than $211 million worth of development between 2010 and 2015.
Fueling Energy, Power and Control Innovation
With the brightest minds and cutting-edge research, Wisconsin companies are generating new ideas that drive the state’s energy, power and control (EPC) industry. Electrical machinery and control manufacturing is the fastest-growing and most competitive industrial sector in Wisconsin, which helps the state better address the world’s energy challenges.
The state’s EPC sector encompasses more than 900 firms, employing over 100,000 people and generating nearly $2.2 billion in exports throughout 2015.
In addition to growing successful companies, Wisconsin is dedicated to energy, power and control research that could help shape the global energy landscape. This research, anchored by the Wisconsin Energy Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) and the Energy Innovation Center run by the Midwest Energy Research Consortium in Milwaukee, is helping build the next generation of leaders in the EPC industry.
Turning Cutting-Edge Research into Bioscience Solutions
Wisconsin has no shortage of innovative thinkers. This is especially true in the state’s growing bioscience sector, which employs 36,000 of the best and brightest in the industry. These talented researchers have created more than 1,600 companies to advance groundbreaking discoveries that shape the worldwide bioscience industry.
In fact, UW-Madison, the state’s flagship university, conducts more than $1 billion per year in academic research and development—with 70 percent going to the bioscience sector. The research taking place at UW-Madison helps attract top talent from around the world to the Madison area, which was recently ranked as the No. 1 U.S. metro for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) college graduates, according to the Brookings Institute.
Due in large part to UW-Madison’s cutting-edge research, major bioscience companies are growing and thriving in Wisconsin, including TomoTherapy, Cellular Dynamics and Exact Sciences. These companies are instrumental in helping to commercialize the research coming out of Wisconsin.
BioForward, the state’s leading bioscience resource, completes the package for Wisconsin bioscience companies by offering access to top experts and funding opportunities to ensure businesses have what they need to succeed.
Wisconsin: The Whole Package
In addition to strong industry leadership, Wisconsin offers a host of business resources. The state provides financial and operational assistance to help businesses locate and expand, with help from a collaborative network of nearly 600 regional and local entities. Also, the state’s Certified In Wisconsin® Program makes it easier for companies to select a location by certifying available building sites and putting in place key permits and paperwork.
Wisconsin is ideal for all companies looking to find global success. Whether that means starting, expanding or relocating a business, the state has the resources needed to get your business up and running. If you’re ready to take the next step, Wisconsin is ready for you. Visit Select.InWisconsin.com for more information.
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UW Campus at Night
Wisconsin’s capital city, Madison, home of the University of Wisconsin, was ranked by the Brookings Institution as the nation’s number-one metro for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) college graduates. © 2016 Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System.
Global Water Center
The Global Water Center in Milwaukee serves as a hub for research and development conducted collaboratively by leading businesses and educational institutions in what has been described as the “Silicon Valley of water technology.”