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5 Things to Know About Wisconsin Manufacturing

Posted by IndustrySelect on Thursday, September 5, 2019



Researching your market is one of the most important steps you can take as a sales and marketing professional. For those looking to do business with Wisconsin manufacturers, IndustrySelect’s database of 400,000 U.S. manufacturers contains a wealth of data to help users understand their market and zero in on a list of prospects. Today we’re bringing you the latest data on Wisconsin’s manufacturing sector and sharing some essential insights provided to us by the state’s industrial companies.

Here are five things to know about Wisconsin’s manufacturing sector right now:

1. Wisconsin Manufacturers Are Hiring

Wisconsin is currently home to 10,542 manufacturers according to MNI, compiler of the industrial data that powers IndustrySelect. These companies employ 583,772 workers. Over the past year, Wisconsin has added 9,498 jobs or about 1.7%. This represents the state’s eighth straight year of manufacturing job growth.

Wisconsin is a popular destination for many manufacturers, and was recently ranked 15th in the nation for business by CNBC. The state received particularly high marks for education, infrastructure and cost of doing business.

2. Food Processing is Rapidly Expanding

Not surprisingly, Wisconsin is a major center for food processing. Apart from its reputation as America’s Dairyland, Wisconsin is also a central hub for meatpacking plants, processed meats (Sheboygan is the bratwurst capital of the world, after all) and breweries.

Manufacturing job gains in Wisconsin over the last year were led by food processing, which grew by 3.4% and remains Wisconsin’s second-largest industrial sector by employment, employing 76,804.

Other industries gaining jobs included:

• Chemicals, up 4.8%
• Paper products, up 1.7%
• Fabricated metals, up 1.38%
• Electronics, up 1.34%

Industries losing jobs included:

• Printing/publishing, down 3.67%
• Primary metals, down 2.7%
• Rubber/plastics, down 1.5%

Wisconsin’s largest industries:

1. Industrial Machinery: 100,721 jobs
2. Food Processing: 76,804 jobs
3. Fabricated Metals: 71,498 jobs
4. Electronics: 44,268 jobs
5. Paper Products: 36,862

3. Wisconsin's Top Manufacturing Cities Are Growing -- With One Notable Exception

Southeast Wisconsin is the state’s manufacturing center, accounting for 53.8% of workers or 309,423 jobs. East Central Wisconsin accounts for 23.6% of the state’s industrial jobs, while Southwest and West Central Wisconsin each account for roughly 8% of the state’s industrial workforce. Northern Wisconsin is home to 6.3% of workers, according to MNI data.

Most of Wisconsin’s largest industrial cities saw increases in manufacturing jobs. Milwaukee was a notable exception to this, with the city suffering a loss 4.5%. Madison, however, saw a gain of 7.4%, while Waukesha industrial employment rose 2.3%. Appleton’s manufacturing workforce grew by 1.3% and Green Bay edged up 0.5%.

Top Industrial Cities in Wisconsin

1. Milwaukee: 45,328 jobs
2. Green Bay: 22,639 jobs
3. Madison: 17,654
4. Waukesha: 16,059
5. Appleton: 15,027

4. Growth In Wisconsin is Outpacing U.S.

Taking a look at the advanced criteria available to IndustrySelect users, we found 2% of companies in Wisconsin reported sales growth, while 5% of companies reported employment growth. This outpaces the 1% sales growth and 4% employment growth reported by manufacturers nationwide

The Badger State was hard hit during the recession, shedding more than 60,000 manufacturing jobs during the downturn, according to MNI data. Prior to that, Wisconsin already losing jobs in response to multiple factors, including automation and a sharp increase in global competition.

Since then, Wisconsin has made a remarkable comeback, recovering more than half the jobs it lost during the recession. MNI data shows the state added 32,000 jobs since August of 2011.

Other items of note, based on data available to IndustrySelect subscribers:

• 2.6% of Wisconsin manufactures are women-owned
• 0.5% are minority-owned
• 8% are publicly-owned companies

Wisconsin executive contacts available to IndustrySelect subscribers number 35,022 including:

• 5,659 presidents
• 2,803 owners and partners
• 3,717 vice-presidents
• 4,157 sales, marketing and purchasing managers

5.Tariffs Are A Concern

Wisconsin is a top player in the global market. According to IndustrySelect data, 12% of Wisconsin’s manufacturers import raw materials in order to produce their final goods, while 26% distribute their products internationally.

Wisconsin is a top exporter of goods, shipping $22 billion worth of products through the world, with Mexico, Canada and China as the state’s top export markets. The current tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese-made goods makes it more difficult for some Wisconsin manufacturers to produce their goods, while tariffs have impacted prices and are beginning to disrupt supply chains. Although industrial companies have generally expressed optimism when it comes to future business conditions, uncertainty resulting from the trade war is making future projections and capital investments more challenging.


Despite challenges in the global market, Wisconsin manufacturers continue on an upward trajectory, with the state’s growth outpacing the U.S. as a whole. Wisconsin industrial companies are hiring, providing opportunities for staffing agencies, HR services and insurance companies, just to name a few.

IndustrySelect recorded growth across a spectrum of industries, but food processing is a fast-expanding industry for the state. Milwaukee is still the state’s top industrial center, but don’t overlook major growth markets in Madison, Waukesha and Appleton. Tariffs are a challenge for Wisconsin manufacturers and may impact investment decisions. Wisconsin has a top-notch business climate and is a top destination for many industrial companies, so we may see more companies expanding and breaking ground in the state.

Ready to Build A List Of Wisconsin Manufacturers?

Looking to reach out to Wisconsin manufacturers? An IndustrySelect subscription can put you on a first-name basis with Wisconsin’s nearly 11,000 manufacturers and 35,000 executives. Subscribers can select up to 30 data points on any manufacturing company in the U.S. to help identify or pre-qualify leads. Company profiles also include the contact information for hard-to-find executive decision-makers. Try a free demo today!














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