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Breaking Down the Results

Spotlight on Argon Industries

Economy Still Strong

Environmentally Friendly Manufacturing

Winter 2019 Issue 31

Predicting the Future

What’s Next for Wisconsin’s Economy?

BANKING BEYOND EXPECTATIONS When it comes down to it, running a business is often just getting through each day – facing immediate needs, short-term goals, and the trivial details of the daily grind. But to achieve lasting success, you also need someone to watch your blind spots and help you navigate the broader business landscape. Each day, I make it my goal to watch the backs of the clients I serve, so they can handle their business with confidence and clarity. MARK MELOY CEO, FIRST BUSINESS BANK


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In This Issue...

Winter 2019 Issue 31

Predicting the Future

What’s Next for Wisconsin’s Economy? PAGE 20


F RO M T H E P R E S I D E N T A Recession is Coming, But When?


2 018 E L E C T I O N The Gerrymander That Wasn’t


S M A L L BU S I N E S S S P OT L I G H T October is Manufacturing Month


BU S I N E S S F R I E N D O F T H E E N V I RO N M E N T How Mercury Marine Manufactures Sustainability


TA X P O L I CY The State of Taxation in Wisconsin


C OV E R STO RY Predicting the Future


W I S C O N S I N C E O S U RV E Y Economy Remains Strong, But Optimism Wanes


E D U CAT I O N VO I C E SuccessWorks: Your Key to Recruiting Great Talent


W M C F O U N DAT I O N Thank You to our 2018 Sponsors & Partners


F U T U R E W I S C O N S I N P RO J E C T Research & Data Drive the Future Wisconsin Project


STAT E S M A N S H I P R E C E P T I O N Ambassador Loftus Delivers Remarks on Bipartisanship











Table of Contents |

Winter 2019


Working With the Evers Administration


President/Publisher Kurt Bauer

Managing Editor Nick Novak

By Nick Novak WMC Director of Communications & Marketing


hether you supported his candidacy or not, be sure to send Tony Evers a letter congratulating him on his election victory and wishing him well as he begins his term as Wisconsin’s 46th governor. I also highly recommend that you compile the economic impact of your business on the state economy and include that summary with your letter to Gov. Evers. In that summary, be sure to include number of employees, total payroll and benefits, taxes paid, recent capital investments, number of vendors/suppliers and your company’s philanthropy in local communities. While you are at it, consider inviting Gov. Evers to visit your business to see firsthand what you do, the people you employ and learn about the challenges you face. Gov. Evers is an educator, not a businessperson. As such, it is important for him to hear directly from as many businesspeople as possible to learn what drives Wisconsin’s economy, i.e., private sector employers. So please, send that letter. For our part, WMC sent the new governor a letter shortly after the election. In addition to offering congratulations, we invited him to several upcoming WMC events, including the Wisconsin Statesmanship Reception, which he did indeed attend. We also offered him a column in this magazine to discuss his economic agenda, which he is yet to accept, but he has been a bit busy forming a cabinet and crafting his first biennial budget. One area of agreement between Evers and WMC is workforce. We have worked with him on the skills gap and the overall


Winter 2019

Art Direction/Production Kyle Pankow

Contributing Writers Kurt R. Bauer, Nick Novak, Scott Manley, Chris Reader, Greg Clement, John Pfeifer, Cory Fish, Rebekah Pryor Paré, Wade Goodsell, Matt Montemurro

Advertising Sales Nick Novak,

workforce shortage during his tenure as Superintendent of Public Instruction and we hope to continue to do so as governor. Workforce is, after all, Wisconsin’s biggest economic challenge, which is why WMC has urged the new Evers Administration to continue the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation’s talent attraction campaign. The reason is simple: the only solution for an acute shortage of working age people is to attract more working age people. There will be other overlapping interests between Evers and WMC, as well, and we look forward to a good working relationship. Our goal at WMC is to ensure Wisconsin businesses are successful, and that means Wisconsin needs to be just as successful. If you have questions about how to reach out to the new administration, please do not hesitate to contact us at WMC. We are hopeful that he will take your input in a meaningful way and that we will all be better off for it. n | From the Editor

Wisconsin Business Voice is published quarterly by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce. WMC is Wisconsin’s chamber of commerce, manufacturers’ association, and safety council representing businesses of all sizes and from every sector of the economy.


501 E. Washington Avenue Madison, WI 53703 tel.: 608.258.3400

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Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce WMC501 @WisconsinMC

A Recession is Coming, But When? By Kurt R. Bauer WMC President & CEO


on’t be too alarmed by my ominous headline. Economic downturns are inevitable and 2019 marks the tenth year of the post Great Recession expansion, which makes it the longest economic recovery since the end of World War II. Many economists have been predicting a recession for several years now. But even with the recent stock market volatility, most believe low unemployment and strong GDP growth will push back a recession until 2020, just in time for the presidential election. Others say that the federal tax reforms will act as a stimulus and delay a recession until 2021 or 2022. But a recession isn’t the only looming threat to the economy, both nationally and in Wisconsin. Here are other areas of concern as we enter 2019. Worker Shortage: Seventy-four percent of Wisconsin private sector employers say they are having trouble finding workers. That is down from 80 percent a year ago, which is perhaps an indication that the economy is slowing. But the labor shortage is nonetheless Wisconsin’s most profound economic challenge and likely will be beyond mid-century unless something unforeseen occurs, like a baby boom or a significant influx of workers from other states and/or countries. Trade War: President Trump’s tariffs and the retaliation they provoked from other nations create confusion, frustration and uncertainty. It has caused steel and aluminum prices to spike in


Winter 2019

the U.S. and domestic producers are simply incapable of filling the void. The not yet ratified United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) appears to be a Trump victory, as is the deal with South Korea. But the U.S. still must negotiate trade pacts with the United Kingdom (post Brexit), the European Union, Japan, and of course, China. The trade disputes also destabilize America’s geo-political relationships in Asia, where most of the world’s economic growth will take place over the next three decades. Further, the tariffs are stressing pricing, upsetting customer relationships and disrupting supply chains. One of the many unintended consequences of the steel and aluminum tariffs are higher automobile insurance costs because replacement parts are now more expensive. Health Care Costs: Health care quality in Wisconsin is among the best in the nation, but it comes at a high price. Health care costs in the Milwaukee metro area are 17 percent | From the President

above the national average and ranks fourth-highest in the nation, according to the Health Care Cost Institute. Costs in Green Bay are 14 percent higher than the U.S. average. The struggle to offer affordable health care coverage to employees has overtaken taxes as the second biggest challenge facing Wisconsin businesses, according to WMC’s semi-annual CEO Economic Survey. As alluded to above, finding workers is number one (see page 24 for coverage of the WMC Economic Survey). Rural Wisconsin: Four years of low milk prices has hit Wisconsin’s family dairy farmers hard. In 2017, Wisconsin lost 500 dairy farms. Last year, the number grew to at least 638. America’s Dairyland still has more dairy farms than any other state (around 8,200), but the steep decline over the last two years underscores broader challenges to the rural Wisconsin economy and way of life. Declining population, loss of vital services, lack of broadband access and drug use are all plaguing

rural Wisconsin. Recession Risk: As mentioned, a recession is inevitable at some point in the relatively near future. The question is when will it occur; what will trigger it; and how bad will it be? Trade could be a cause, depending on how long the current disputes continue. Housing could also be a factor, given that sales have slowed due to rising interest rates and the increased cost of materials for new construction, which is another consequence of the tariffs. Political Instability/Polarization: Democrats won control of the U.S. House of Representatives last November, albeit by a slim margin. The result is divided government in Washington (and Madison, for that matter) with the gridlock that goes with it. A Democrat-led House probably means partisan investigations into President Donald Trump on Russia, tax returns,

hush money payments, etc. It could also threaten more government shutdowns. But, it might not be all bad. As John O’Sullivan wrote in the mid-1840s, “the best government is that which governs least.” The other good news is despite America’s political disharmony, the U.S. is considered stable by global standards and therefore an attractive place for investment. Deficit/Entitlement Spending and the National Debt: Trillion dollar federal deficits have returned, and Democrats won the U.S. House (and the Wisconsin governorship) by pledging to expand government-financed health care benefits. The result is that the entitlement-fueled national debt, which is approaching $22 trillion, will grow largely unchecked due to bipartisan ambivalence. Strong Dollar: A strong dollar is

great if you are a tourist visiting abroad, but it creates problems for U.S. manufacturers and other exporters when competitors have a currency value pricing advantage. Compounding the strong dollar is a weakening Chinese Yuan, which is offsetting the impact of U.S.-imposed tariffs, most likely by design. Creeping Socialism: A nationwide poll conducted last August showed that for the first time Democrats have a more positive image of socialism than of capitalism. A WMC-commissioned poll in 2017 showed 44 percent of Wisconsin millennials preferred socialism. As someone who ardently believes prosperity grows when there is less government and more economic freedom, I find this trend alarming for the future of our economy and country. n





From the President |

Winter 2019


The Gerrymander That Wasn’t By Scott Manley WMC Senior Vice President of Government Relations


ith another election in the rearview mirror, it didn’t take long for the hyperbolic rhetoric about gerrymandering to begin. On Nov. 6, Democrats won 36 of 99 contests in the State Assembly, meaning Republicans maintained a wide majority of 63-36 seats in that chamber. In the Senate, Democrats fared even worse. They actually lost a seat in the Door County area – a seat they had previously won only months earlier in a special election. As a result of picking up a seat on election night, Republicans now have a solid 19-14 majority in the Senate. Over the last eight years, Democrats have struggled to take back the majority in either house of the legislature – except for a short time in 2012 following Wisconsin’s recall elections when the Democrats held the majority in the Senate for a short few months. Is there a reason Democrats have struggled to win more legislative seats in recent memory? According to some, it is all a plot by the Republicans to “gerrymander” legislative districts to keep Democrats from winning elections. If only Republicans hadn’t “rigged the maps,” Democrats would, by their estimation, likely control both houses of the Legislature. However, the data on actual voter behavior in our state tells a very different story, and debunks the widely-circulated and oft-repeated conspiracy theories of gerrymandering in our state.


Winter 2019

Take for example the claim that because Republicans won only 45.6 percent of the “popular vote” in all Assembly races last November, they never should have won 63 percent of the Assembly seats. How could Repub-

Looking at votes from the 63 Assembly races last fall where both parties fielded a candidate, Republicans won 58.2 percent to 41.8 percent - a margin of more than 16 points.

licans possibly win 63 of 99 seats with only 46 percent of the statewide vote if not for maps rigged by gerrymandering? | Government Relations

The answer is really simple. Democrats had no Republican opposition in 30 Assembly races. None. In fact, nearly 620,000 of the votes Assembly Democrats got on election night were won in races with no Republican opponent. Stated differently, 47.1 percent of all votes Democrats received in Assembly races last November were won in races without Republican opposition. This irrefutable fact renders any concept of the statewide “popular vote” for Assembly candidates electorally meaningless. However, you don’t need an advanced degree in political science to understand that uncontested races tell us nothing about how the voters view Republican versus Democrat candidates. If you set aside those uncontested races, a much more meaningful and relevant set of data emerges. Looking at votes from the 63 Assembly races last fall where both parties fielded a candidate, Republicans won

58.2 percent to 41.8 percent - a margin of more than 16 points. It’s much easier to understand how Democrats won only 36 percent of the Assembly races when they received only 41.8 percent of the popular vote in races where they actually faced a Republican on the ballot. Another popular trope is the notion that gerrymandering must have occurred because Democratic candidates like U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Gov. Tony Evers won statewide races – yet Democrats running for the legislature failed to take control of either the Senate or Assembly. This flawed theory misunderstands the fact that electors cast their vote for candidates, not political parties. Voters are not robots preprogrammed to cast ballots for candidates of only one party. With the exception of the hardcore partisans on both sides, voters make well-considered choices based on the attributes of the candidates themselves. Yet, this theory makes claim that if a voter casts his or her ballot for the Democratic candidate at the top of the ticket (e.g. U.S. Senator or Governor), then every single Democrat candidate on the remainder of the ballot is entitled to a vote as well. That’s not how it works. Candidates are not entitled to votes, they have to earn them. And the reality is that down-ballot Democrats failed to earn votes in many instances where voters supported the Democrat candidates for U.S. Senate or Governor. Here are a few examples:

Left: Wisconsin Assembly seat electoral map with red signifying a Republican victory and blue signifying a Democrat victory.

Below: The electoral breakdown by Wisconsin municipalities showing a similar-looking map to above.

Government Relations |

Winter 2019


Republican state Sen. Howard Marklein won his first reelection by an 8.2 point margin in a Southwestern Wisconsin Senate seat where Tony Evers beat Gov. Scott Walker by 1.1 points, and U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin won by 10.5 points. Republican Dale Kooyenga was elected to an open Senate seat in suburban Milwaukee by a 2.4 point margin, while Baldwin won the identical geography by 5.9 points. Voters gave Republican state Rep. Travis Tranel a huge 17.8 point margin of victory in his reelection, while simultaneously giving Baldwin a 9.2 point margin, and narrowly voting for Evers over Walker. Republican state Rep. Todd Novak won a close race for reelection in the Dodgeville area, but the races at the top of the ticket were anything but close. Democrats Baldwin and Evers won the district by margins of 20.3 and 9.3 points respectively. In Wausau, the voters reelected Republican state Rep. Pat Snyder by a comfortable margin of 10.5 points while voters in his district gave Baldwin a 6.1 point victory. Voters in Northwestern Wisconsin gave freshman Republican state Rep. Trieg Pronschinske a healthy 10.3 point margin on his first reelection, while also favoring Baldwin by 7.4 points. Voters also chose Republican Loren Oldenburg to fill an open seat for Assembly in the Vernon and Crawford County areas by a 3.4 point margin, but chose Baldwin by an 11.8 point margin.

In each of the examples listed above, Democratic candidates at the top of the ticket demonstrated an ability to win a majority of the votes in each district,

10 Winter 2019

while Democratic candidates for the legislature failed to do the same. In total, there were 19 Assembly seats where a Democratic candidate won at the top of the ticket, but down-bal-

Specifically, the 70 counties that are not Dane or Milwaukee produced an average margin of victory for Republican Assembly candidates of 10.6 points. That’s a significant outperformance by Republicans.

lot Democrats lost. The assertion that these districts have been rigged to prevent Democrats from winning is contrary to the data, and correspondingly, the accusations of gerrymandering ring hollow. Rather than rigged or gerrymandered maps, Wisconsin Democrats have a geography problem. That is, their voters tend to concentrate themselves in Dane and Milwaukee Counties. A map of the election results based on one originally crafted by the estimable election guru J. Miles Coleman illustrates the Democrats’ conundrum (see maps on page 9). Of the 1,896 cities, towns and villages on the map, Gov. Walker won 1,494 (79 percent) to Evers’ 393 (21 percent). The fact that Gov. Evers carried only 21 percent of the cities, towns and villages in Wisconsin yet narrowly won the statewide race demonstrates how significantly concentrated Democrat voters are in the Madison and Milwaukee areas. As the map shows, the areas outside of Milwaukee and Dane Counties are generally a vast sea of red representing Republican voters. The impact of concentrating Democrat voters primarily into two counties logically benefits Republicans running | Government Relations

for legislative seats outside of those two counties. The data reinforces this point. If you set aside the votes in Assembly races that were cast in Dane and Milwaukee County, and focus only on votes from the remaining 70 counties, the GOP has a decidedly stronger base of support among voters. Specifically, the 70 counties that are not Dane or Milwaukee produced an average margin of victory for Republican Assembly candidates of 10.6 points. That’s a significant outperformance by Republicans. With a few notable exceptions in areas like Superior, La Crosse and Racine, Republicans generally dominate among voters in these 70 counties. The large red swaths on the map underscore this point. In many of these areas, it would be impossible to draw a district where a Democrat could even be competitive, let alone win, without that seat itself being a gerrymander. Given what happened on Election Day, the disappointment among Democrats in their collective electoral performance in legislative races is understandable. Expectations for large Democratic gains in the legislature ran high, but that is not what happened on Election Day. However, the excuse of gerrymandering as an explanation for their underperformance falls flat under the scrutiny of factual data. The boundaries of legislative districts are drawn to ensure they all have equal population, and are therefore driven by where people live. And the reality is that the Democrats’ base is almost completely found in Dane and Milwaukee Counties. The Democrats’ electoral shortcomings in legislative races are not about gerrymandering or rigged maps. In reality, Democrats at the top of the ticket were able to convince voters they should be elected, while those running for the legislature could not. Additionally, you cannot expect to win legislative seats throughout the entire state when the vast majority of your voters are heavily concentrated in two counties. n

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©2016 CSS-1553

Medicaid Expansion, a Risky Proposition By Chris Reader WMC Director of Health and Human Resources Policy


hortly after winning the gubernatorial election, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers started pushing a proposal that would expand Medicaid in Wisconsin, as allowed under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This has been a policy desire by Democrats in Wisconsin for many years. Their argument is that under the ACA, states receive federal money to expand the government-backed Medicaid program, so why not expand coverage and bring money from the federal government into Wisconsin at the same time? Unfortunately that viewpoint is shortsighted and could be a risky proposition for state taxpayers long-term. When the Affordable Care Act was first signed, states that expanded Medicaid coverage and followed the ACA guidelines on expansion received 100 percent funding from the federal government. However even from the start, that funding level was scheduled to reduce year after year, leaving states on the hook. As it stands today, states that expand coverage receive 94 percent funding from the federal government. The amount decreases again to 90 percent starting in 2020. Going beyond 2020, there is no guarantee that the federal government will continue funding at the same level, potentially putting state taxpayers on the hook for the expanded program. Under Gov. Scott Walker, Wisconsin took a different, unique path. Rather than expand coverage for everyone at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL), as ACA guidelines

12 Winter 2019

call for, Wisconsin established coverage under BadgerCare for everyone at or below 100 percent of FPL. This meant that Wisconsin would cover everyone at or below 100 percent of FPL, while those over the income limit would be eligible for subsidies under the Affordable Care Act to buy insurance. The end result was Wisconsin being the only state in the country that didn’t go after the “free” federal money but also made sure every citizen had means for health care – through BadgerCare or through ACA insurance. This was a sage policy prescription on several fronts. It means that Wisconsin did not simply push people into a government assistance program as a way to capture more money from the federal government. It means that Wisconsin taxpayers will not be on the hook for the additional resources when the federal government inevitably reduces the payment amount to states in the future. And it means Wisconsin lawmakers will | Health and Human Resources Policy

not have this “free” money to spend as they please going forward for unrelated expenses. Too often in Wisconsin history we’ve witnessed money come into state government coffers for one reason, but used instead to backfill a hole in a different department. Think of raids on the Transportation Fund as an example. Finally, it is often reported that Medicaid in Wisconsin already under-pays health care providers for their services to the tune of over $1 billion annually. That amount is then shifted to private payers, resulting in a hidden health care tax that drives up the costs for group health and worker’s compensation. Expanding the number of individuals the government is under-paying for will only exacerbate this problem and cause even greater amounts to be shifted to worker’s compensation and group health payers. Expect a robust debate in Madison on this topic in the coming months. For his part, Gov. Evers has stated without question that he wants to expand Medicaid. Democrats are banking on the federal government upholding its end of the ACA bargain to continue funding going forward. Republican leaders on the other hand have emphatically stated they will not let the expansion happen. When asked in late 2018, Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) stated “No way. Never. I don’t want more people on government health care.” This issue is likely going to be one of hottest policy debates in Madison in 2019. n

2018 WMC Board WMC Officers CHAIR Jay Smith Teel Plastics, Inc. VICE CHAIR Stephen Loehr* Kwik Trip, Inc.

John Dykema Campbell Wrapper Corporation Circle Packaging Machinery, Inc. Philip Flynn Associated Banc-Corp Jeff French Grant Thornton LLP

SECRETARY Tod Linstroth Michael Best & Friedrich LLP

Philip Fritsche* Beaver Dam Area Chamber of Commerce

TREASURER Gina Peter Wells Fargo Bank

Louie Gentine II* Sargento Foods Inc.

WMC Board of Directors

Robert Gerbitz* Hendricks Commercial Properties

Daryl Adel Kerry

Michael Hamerlik* WPS Health Solutions

Sidney Bliss Bliss Communications, Inc.

Steven Johnson* John Deere Horicon Works

Damond Boatwright* SSM Health - Wisconsin

Wilson Jones* Oshkosh Corporation

Steven Booth* Robert W. Baird & Co., Inc.

Patricia Kampling* Alliant Energy Corporation

David Bretting* C. G. Bretting Manufacturing Co., Inc.

Robert Keller* J.J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

Thomas Burke* Modine Manufacturing Company

Suzanne Kelley Waukesha County Business Alliance

Nate Cunniff BMO Harris Bank

Clifford King Skyward, Inc.

Daniel Defnet Johnson Financial Group

James Leef* ITU AbsorbTech, Inc.

Brad Denoyer Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, LLP

Scott Mayer QPS Employment Group

James McIntyre* The Greenheck Group

Rajan Sheth Mead & Hunt, Inc.

J.R. Menard Menard, Inc.

Glen Tellock Lakeside Foods, Inc.

Rosalie Morgan EMCS, Inc.

S. Mark Tyler OEM Fabricators, Inc.

Robert Moses Prairie du Chien Area Chamber of Commerce

Donald Wahlin Stoughton Trailers, LLC

Barbara Nick* Dairyland Power Cooperative Michael Nikolai* Waupaca Foundry, Inc. James Ostrom Milk Source LLC Paul Palmby Seneca Foods Corporation Rick Parks Society Insurance John Pfeifer* Mercury Marine Aaron Powell Flexion, Inc.

Michael Wallace Fort HealthCare Todd Wanek* Ashley Furniture Industries, Inc

WMC Past Chairs (pictured)

Rockne Flowers The Edwin E. and Janet L. Bryant Foundation, Inc. Robert Kamphuis Mayville Engineering Company, Inc. Arthur Nesbitt AWNWARD, LLC

WMC Executive Staff

Joseph Pregont* Prent Corporation

Kurt Bauer President & CEO

Jay Rothman* Foley & Lardner LLP

Scott Manley Senior Vice President of Government Relations

Eric Sauey Seats, Incorporated Karl Schmidt Belmark, Inc. William Schultz Quarles & Brady LLP

Katie Yeutter President of Insurance & Safety Services COO/CFO

WMC Board |

*not pictured

Winter 2019 13

Small Business Spotlight Company Profile Company Name: Argon Industries Location: Milwaukee, WI Founded: 2002 Website: CEO: Greg Clement Number of Employees: 137 with 15 open positions

What is Argon Industries? We are a full service contract manufacturer of light to medium sheet metal components and assemblies, using the latest technologies in laser, turret, stamping, forming, robotic welding, manual mig and tig welding, engineering, and in-house state of the art “Green� powder coating painting system. Argon Industries manufactures products in various materials such as stainless steel, aluminum, high strength steels, galvanized, galvannealed, cold rolled and hot rolled, for diverse industries such as high-end appliances, infrastructure repair and maintenance, defense contractors, point of purchase displays, HVAC, water technologies, and OEM equipment. Our welders are qualified to AWS D1.1 and D1.3. We are ISO9001:2015 certified.

Please give us some background on Argon Industries and your role in the company: I started Argon to be a premier sheet metal fabricator focusing on complex sheet metal components and weldments. I came from a publicly traded company responsible for sales for four fabrication divisions in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Carolina. The experience was fantastic, but after seeing how a corporate top-down structure worked, I knew it was not for me. I

14 Winter 2019 | Small Business Spotlight

wanted to make a difference in people’s lives and expand the highly skilled workforce in the area incorporating the Servant Leadership model. The year I started Argon I purchased the Milwaukee fabricating division of the company I previously worked for. This acquisition allowed us to scale quickly. We instantly grew from four people to 25 and expanded our fabricating capabilities. We grew over the next five years to 75 people and two facilities. Then two things happened: my largest customer moved our work to China and the great recession hit. We ended up consolidating to 35 people. One customer went from two weeks inventory to two months. However, by the grace of God, we were able to keep fighting and scrapping for business and started to grow again. In 2013, we purchased the facility we are in now, combined both operations, and added powder coating as a core capability. We are now a one solution shop. We added new customers, due to the powder coat line, which gave us the ability to offer more value added services such as assembling, labeling, and packaging finished product that is sent all over the US and Internationally. Since 2013, we have grown from 89 employees to 137, with 15 additional jobs still open. This is a testament to

our workforce. We would not be able to grow without a high quality and determined workforce that understands customer service. I also have to contribute our growth to having great customers that believe in true partnerships. We are successful because they allow us to give input on designs and projects, thus creating an environment of Argon being an extension of their business. This way everyone has buy-in and a common goal to succeed. It is very humbling to have the success we are experiencing. Argon started in 2002 with four people and three machines in a 10,000 sq. ft rented facility. Today we own a 128,000 sq. ft. facility on almost 14 acres with over 50 machines, 137 employees and 15 job openings. We have been truly blessed. We expect to grow to 200 people by 2022.

What policies have had a positive impact on your company and the way you do business? The Manufacturing Tax Credit is extremely important to our growth. This credit allows us to invest more in the equipment needed to increase output and continue meeting our customer’s

needs, which continues to fuel our growth and add to our workforce.

What policies or obstacles have proven to be a challenge for Argon? The tariffs have had a major negative effect on our costs and our customers. In some cases our material pricing has doubled. We have had customer’s lose international business due to the tariffs.

What future goals do you have for Argon? In 2018, Argon grew 30 percent. We invested $2 million in new equipment. Our goal is to grow another 10% in 2019. However, this growth is a build up to 2020-22 when, with what we have in the pipeline, we have the potential to grow another 30-40 percent. Over that time we will be investing another $3 to $5 million in new equipment.

Do you have any insight for other manufacturers or small business owners? We need to work harder as a community to promote manufacturing in all segments of industries. There is a need for training programs in manufacturing that teach lifelong skills. We have an

underserved demographic of 20-35 year olds that missed the education and training opportunities in their past and now want to learn a skill whether it be welding, press brakes, robotic programming or engineering, just to name a few. These are careers, not jobs. I would like to see the state work directly with employers to help with this training. The employers know best what is needed and how to train the individuals for the work that is needed and will give the employee the greatest opportunity for success. n

Mark Your Calendar! Upcoming Small Business Committee Meetings: Wednesday, March 20, 2019 Wednesday, May 15, 2019 Wednesday, October 9, 2019 Wednesday, December 11, 2019 For more information on WMC’s Small Business Committee, contact Brittany Rockwell at or 608.258.3400.

Small Business Spotlight |

Winter 2019 15

Manufacturing a Sustainable Business By John Pfeifer President, Mercury Marine


ustainability is one of our core fundamental values at Mercury Marine. It’s not unique to one location, but rather a focus of our entire global enterprise. For us, sustainability is vital to our long-term success as we set out to pursue our business objectives and lead the global marine industry and the state of Wisconsin. We are in business because we

16 Winter 2019

want to make people’s experience on the water the absolute best it can be, but that’s not the only reason we are in business. We think we have a responsibility at Mercury; we don’t just want to be a marine propulsion business, we want to be a socially responsible business that makes communities around the world better because we are there. Using the triple bottom line model as | Sustainability

a guide, we can focus our strategy on its three dimensions of performance: social, environmental and financial. Ten years ago, being a sustainable company was a sophisticated way of saying you recycled materials. Today, it’s a functional requirement. From a sustainability standpoint, we have grown and the reason I believe we have matured is because everyone that

works here cares about it and truly believes that we can have an impact and make the world a better place. When people say sustainability is important, they get involved. As you’ll see in our most recent Sustainability Report, which you can find at, we set aggressive goals for 2019 and I’m proud to say that we have great momentum and are well on our way to meeting those targets. From an environmental standpoint,

sustainability means having a positive impact in the world in which we live, ensuring that the products we take to market are as clean as they can possibly be. It’s also in how we operate our global operations, our commitment to protecting the planet and having a positive impact on everyone we encounter from our employees, our partners and the consumers who use our product. Financially, it’s also important that we have a positive impact on the communities in which we operate in because as a Wisconsin based company, it is our responsibility to grow in the state and we are proud that we have invested more than $800 million on R&D and expansion over the past 10 years at our global headquarters in Fond du Lac and more than 80 percent of the work done on those expansions was performed by Wisconsin-based companies. It is our job, as a steward of the community, not just to manufacture sustainable products, but to grow the Wisconsin economy and all the economies around the world in which we do business. Socially, being a sustainable company also factors into the workforce, which is at the forefront of Wisconsin companies today. People and their safety are at the core of everything we do, and we must continue to provide opportunities for growth and create safe and healthy work environments. This comes in the form of community outreach, military hiring and making manufacturing fun and less complex. Our new systems and technologies allow kids coming out of high school and college the opportunity to have a career in manufacturing. And it’s not just men – almost half of our assembly workers at Mercury Marines’ global headquarters in Fond du Lac are female. That says a lot about the health of manufacturing in our state, and we want to be out in front of that. Recently, I heard from someone in the investment community who said that if companies are not sustainable or have a deeper understanding of why

they exist and a relationship with their communities, they may be de-emphasized in terms of their investment priorities. We truly believe a better world will result when there is broad consensus behind the value of sustainable practices in the marine industry and society at large. Mercury’s sustainability mission is led by four clearly defined pillars that drive its strategy: Energy: Achieving greater energy efficiency by implementing energy-reducing projects, promoting best practices in energy management and employing new energy technologies. Environment: Preserving the natural places where customers use Mercury products for work and play; decreasing the use of natural resources through conservation, redeployment and recycling; and returning purified resources to the planet whenever possible. Product: Minimizing engines’ impact on water, land and air – recognizing the need for an unspoiled environment in which to live and enjoy Mercury Marine products. People: Helping people who relate with Mercury Marine – employees, partners, customers and the communities where Mercury operates – to enjoy happier, healthier and more fulfilling lives. n Mercury Marine won a WMC Business Friend of the Environment Award in 2018, the second time in four years, after also being recognized for its sustainable practices in 2014. Learn more about the Business Friend of the Environment Awards at

Sustainability |

Winter 2019 17

The State of Taxation in Wisconsin By Cory Fish WMC Director of Tax, Transportation and Legal Affairs


isconsin’s business tax climate has seen marked improvements over the last eight years. Whether it’s CNBC (29 in 2010 to 17 in 2018), Forbes (40 in 2010 to 32 in 2018), the Tax Foundation (42 in 2010 to 32 in 2019), Site Selection Magazine (unranked in 2010 to 22 in 2018), or Chief Executive Magazine (41 in 2010 and 13 in 2018) doing the ranking, Wisconsin’s business climate is moving in the right direction. When site selectors have been asked what is the reason for Wisconsin’s improvement in these rankings, they attribute the lion’s share of the improvement to tax reform. As the Wisconsin Legislature moves into the next legislative session it is important to take stock of the progress that has been made on this front.

Manufacturing and Agriculture Tax Credit Wisconsin’s Manufacturing and Agriculture tax credit (MAC) was signed into law in 2011 and started to be implemented in 2013. According to a University of Wisconsin-Madison report, the implementation of the MAC has resulted in the creation of 42,000 jobs. More than 10,000 Wisconsin employers took advantage of the MAC in 2017 – 88 percent of which were small businesses with incomes of less than $1 million. The Wisconsin Manufacturing and Agriculture tax credit compliments two

18 Winter 2019

of Wisconsin’s largest economic sectors and offsets above-average business tax rates compared to many of our neighbors and the rest of the nation. Since his election, Gov. Tony Evers has said he expects to include capping the MAC at $300,000 of income in his upcoming budget.

Income Taxes Since 2011, Wisconsin’s individual income tax rate has been cut across the board. In 2011, Wisconsin had five tax brackets ranging from 7.75 percent to 4.6 percent. In 2018 the state has four tax brackets ranging from 7.65 percent to 4.0 percent. Wisconsin’s franchise, or corporate, tax rate has stayed constant at 7.9 percent since 1981. A 2018 study by the Tax Foundation on state-by-state income tax rankings shows Wisconsin’s corporate and individual income tax rankings at 35 and 39 respectively. Already below the | Tax, Transportation and Legal

national average, and without additional tax relief, it is likely that Wisconsin’s ranking will get worse in the coming years as other states continue to reduce their income tax burdens. We can see examples of this from our Midwestern peers. Indiana and Iowa went through significant income tax reform that will be automatically phased-in in coming years. Iowa cut both individual and corporate income tax rates across the board and Indiana’s corporate tax rate has automatic cuts scheduled annually through 2022 to a rate of 4.9 percent. However, Wisconsinites are likely to see some income tax relief: as the state implements its sales tax on remote sellers (online retailers), the revenue generated will all be directed to individual income tax relief. Further, Gov. Evers announced he expects to include cutting income taxes for the middle class by 10 percent in his first budget.

Property Taxes Wisconsin property tax reform has historically been a bipartisan endeavor with property tax levy limits being implemented in 2006. In 2011, these limits were strengthened, tightening the allowable increase from three percent to a growth limit based on net new construction. Further reforms were taken in 2017 when the state’s remaining portion of the property tax was eliminated. Despite these reforms, Wisconsin’s property tax burden is still significant.

By one measure, Wisconsin has the 14th worst per-capita property tax in the nation, and with local governments and special interest allies clamoring for weakening or eliminating the levy limits and creating new local revenue streams, this ranking could get worse. A large portion of this local tax burden, 48 percent according to the non-partisan Council on State Taxation, is paid by businesses. Gov. Evers stated he plans on loosening the levy limit to make it easier for local governments to increase property taxes. There has also been a property tax shift to businesses over the past decade. According to the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, there has been more than a two percent shift from residential property to commercial and manufacturing property between 2008 and 2018. Two proposals were introduced last legislative session that

Taxpayers need to be vigilant and continue to proactively work with policymakers to ensure that Wisconsin’s tax climate is competitive enough to make Wisconsin a great place to work, live and do business.

would have exacerbated this tax shift and made Wisconsin’s property tax assessment system more subjective. WMC helped to defeat these pieces of legislation in the waning days of the session. However, it is likely that these bills will be introduced again in the upcoming session.

Business taxpayers also saw a significant cut to the personal property tax in the 2017 budget, where the legislature exempted businesses from having to pay personal property tax on machinery not used in manufacturing (which is already exempt). This will result in over $70 million in savings for taxpayers.

Conclusion As the new legislative session begins, it will be imperative that businesses voice their concerns about policies that will impact their future success and their employees. Taxpayers need to be vigilant and continue to proactively work with policymakers to ensure that Wisconsin’s tax climate is competitive enough to make Wisconsin a great place to work, live and do business. n

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Tax, Transportation and Legal |

Winter 2019 19

20 Winter 2019 | Cover Story

Predicting the Future

What’s Next for Wisconsin’s Economy? By Nick Novak WMC Director of Communications & Marketing


early as far back as you can find data, the Wisconsin economy has trended very closely to the national economy. Many economists quip that “As goes the U.S. economy, so goes the Wisconsin economy.” So, what does that mean for the future of our state? To understand where the state’s economic future is,

we must first look at the current condition of it.

Wisconsin Economy The past year was a good one for Wisconsin. The economy was humming along. The state had solid Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth, more jobs were created, and seemingly the biggest concern

Cover Story |

Winter 2019 21

facing businesses was the lack of qualified workers. In the first two quarters of 2018 – the most recent available data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis – Wisconsin’s real GDP grew by 4.1 percent and 2.8 percent respectively. During the same periods, the U.S. economy grew by 2.2 percent in the first quarter and 4.2 in the second quarter. Real GDP for the U.S. slowed to 3.4 percent in the third quarter, but data for Wisconsin is not yet available. Looking to personal income growth, Wisconsin continued to trend in a positive direction. The year started off with a strong first quarter. Personal income grew in Wisconsin by 6.9 percent from January to March, besting the national average of 5.2 percent. Quarter two and quarter three saw Wisconsin’s personal income growth slow to 1.4 percent and 3.6 percent respectively – both falling under the national averages of 3.4 percent (Q2) and 4.0 percent (Q3). On the jobs front, Wisconsin added 40,500 jobs from Nov. 2017 to Nov. 2018, including nearly 10,000 private sector jobs in Nov. 2018 alone. Of the over 40,000 jobs created in the state, manufacturing led the way with 19,000 jobs followed by construction with 8,400 jobs. In addition, Wisconsin’s unemployment rate has been at three percent or lower for 10 straight months – setting a record for the longest streak of its kind. The low unemployment rate has continued to be a struggle for Wisconsin employers, who rank it as the top issue they face on a daily basis. While Wisconsin businesses have continued to grow throughout 2018, income tax collections for the state have increased. This is despite eight straight years of tax reductions under the previous administration. In fact, thanks to Wisconsin’s strong economy, the State of Wisconsin ended fiscal year 2017-18 with a $588.5 million surplus. The fiscal year, which ended Jun. 30 of last year, saw general

22 Winter 2019

fund tax collections increase by 18.4 million over estimates and individual income tax collections were $99.2 million higher than anticipated. Suffice to say, Wisconsin’s economy is performing well, and all signs point to continued growth in 2019. However, businesses may not be as optimistic as they were a year ago. In Dec. 2017, WMC’s survey of the state’s chief executives felt good about the Wisconsin economy – 69.9 percent rated the economy as strong or very strong. Since last year, that number increased to 80.2 percent in June of last year and the most recent survey found 84.1 percent rated the economy as strong or very strong. (Read more about the survey on page 24) While business leaders see the current economy as strong, their predictions have dropped somewhat over the last year. In the same survey from Dec. 2017, 89.4 percent of Wisconsin CEOs said they thought the economy would experience good or moderate growth in the next six months. That dropped to 84.1 percent in Jun. 2018 and 71.8 percent the past December. Clearly, a strong majority of business leaders are optimistic about the future of the state’s economy, but there is an increasingly larger group that is not as confident. This is far from saying Wisconsin will fall into a recession in | Cover Story

2019, but it could be the first sign that economic growth will not be as fast in the state over the next year. Another sign that economic expansion will not continue at the same rate is the fact that 55 percent of businesses plan to hire in the next six months, also down from 60 percent about six months ago. Also down is the number of CEOs who say they are having trouble finding workers. It has seen a slight dip from 80 percent a year ago to 74 percent in the most recent survey.

Impact of the U.S. Economy As was mentioned up top, much of Wisconsin’s economic future is dependent on the U.S. economy. If it continues to be strong, the Badger State will likely perform well, too. There is good news for Wisconsinites on this front. The U.S. economy continues to show its strength. While there were some hiccups at the end of 2018 – a volatile stock market and the threat of tariffs, to name a couple – the national economy continues to improve. One sign that the economy will continue to improve is that the Federal Reserve raised interest rates in December, the fourth time of the year. While still historically low, the 2.25 to 2.5 percent range is much higher than it has been in recent memory. Another sign of strength is consumer

spending. It is expected to keep growing well into 2019, much of it due to increased wages and more take-home pay after President Donald Trump signed into law federal tax reform a little over a year ago. While the interest rate hike is a sign of an ever-improving economy, it also could cause growth to slow as borrowing becomes more expensive. Another issue – especially for a manufacturing-heavy state like Wisconsin – is the growing threat of U.S. imposed and retaliatory tariffs. Appearing on UpFront with Mike Gousha just before the New Year, Husco International President & CEO Austin Ramirez told Gousha he was “cautious” about the state’s economy in 2019 due to factors he sees playing out nationally. Specifically speaking about the tariffs, he said China has been a bad actor on many fronts, but the reliance on tariffs makes him nervous. “Punitive tariffs that impact U.S. manufacturers more than they impact Chinese manufacturers, which is what is happening today, is the wrong policy tool to combat unfair Chinese trade practices,” Ramirez said. “We need to eliminate these unproductive tariffs and focus instead on strategic trade policies that punish bad behavior by China, while at the same time creating ‘carrots’ that incent them to play by the rules and become a productive member of the global economy.” According to WMC’s latest economic survey, 37 percent of businesses have seen a negative impact from the tariffs, while only five percent think it has had a positive impact.

peg the start of a recession sometime in 2020. To get a better ideas of what economists think is in store, we asked a few to predict what 2019 would bring. Here is what they said:

What Will 2019 Bring?

Dennis Winters, Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development Chief Economist “The current U.S. economic expansion is on the cusp of becoming the longest in history. Positive economic growth through August will set a new record, surpassing the growth period of the 1990s. There has been an unprec-

A broad range of economists and WMC President & CEO Kurt Bauer all agree on one thing. A recession is coming. When asked when it will happen, that is when the answers get a little foggier. For the most part, they don’t think 2019 will see a recession. There will be some slowdown, but they

John Koskinen, Wisconsin Dept. of Revenue Chief Economist “The momentum from 2018 will carry-over into 2019. Moderate growth will continue without a recession. Wisconsin will remain a full employment economy. Unemployment will remain low at 2.9 percent. Private non-farm employment will increase 1.1 percent.” Noah Williams, Center for Research on the Wisconsin Economy Director, UW-Madison “We forecast that for both the state and the entire nation that growth will continue in 2019, but at a slower rate. Largely, this is a return to the ‘new normal’ of GDP growth around two percent rather than the roughly three percent growth we’ve had over the past year. “Some signs of this slowdown are already evident nationwide, particularly with the declines and increased volatility in asset markets. The Wisconsin economy also slowed slightly in the last few months of 2018, with the labor force participation dropping and the unemployment rate ticking up slightly. “We expect this deceleration to continue, with the growth rate in the state declining in 2019 and the unemployment rate edging up from its historic low. However while we are forecasting a growth slowdown, we do not expect a recession to happen over the next year.”

edented, uninterrupted run of monthly job growth – 98 months in a row, by far the longest streak on record. The stock market hit new highs in 2018 and business and consumer confidence are near highs. Consumer spending is robust. I don’t believe expansions die of old age. “Our outlook is for continued growth in 2019. While probably not as robust as recent quarters, average GDP growth is estimated to be about 2.5 percent for 2019. In addition to the dilution of tax cuts and increased government spending in early 2018, the slowdown is predicated on the softness in housing markets, private non-residential investment, and a potentially vulnerable credit challenge depending on interest rate increases. “Job growth is expected to continue, constrained only by the number of workers for the positions in demand.”

Conclusion While many economists are optimistic for 2019 – and less so after that – consumer confidence is showing signs of weakening. Amid the ebbs and flows of the stock market in December, the Conference Board released its latest consumer confidence index, which dropped to 128.1 from 136.4 in November. When asked about the future economy, the index dropped from 112.3 to 99.1, the lowest it has been since Oct. 2016. Again, this does not mean a recession is imminent, but it does show that the economy may begin slowing after a historically long growth period. As we push forward into 2019, the only real way to know what is going to happen is wait. n

Cover Story |

Winter 2019 23


Economy Remains Strong, But Optimism Wanes W isconsin’s economy remains strong, but state business leaders are a little less optimistic heading into 2019 than a year ago, according to the latest semi-annual economic survey conducted by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), the state’s largest business group. Eighty-four percent of the 203 business executives surveyed in December rate the Wisconsin economy as strong or very strong, up from 80 percent in June and 70 percent a year ago. Eighty-one percent rate the U.S. economy as strong or very strong, which is unchanged from six months ago. Wisconsin business leaders also continue to like the direction of the U.S. economy, despite some concerns about tariffs, health care costs and labor availability. Eighty-three percent said the U.S. is headed in the right direction, down from 86 percent in June. At the state-level, the right-track/ wrong-track number dipped to 68 percent. It was 89 percent in June and a year ago. While 88 percent of state executives said their business was profitable in the last six months and 92 percent project profitability in the first six months of 2019, fewer said they will experience “good growth” next year. Similarly, six months ago 21 percent said the Wisconsin economy will see good growth. That number dropped to 14 percent today, with 57 percent saying growth will be moderate and 22 percent saying it will be flat, exactly the same percentages as six month ago. Fifty-five percent of those surveyed

24 Winter 2019

plan to hire in the next six months, down from 60 percent six months ago, which may explain why the number of business leaders who said they are having trouble finding workers has dropped in the last year. Seventy-four percent say they can’t find workers, down from 76 percent in June and 80 percent a year ago. On the face of it, a lower number of businesses that are not having trouble finding workers looks like a positive sign. But it might also be an early indicator that the economy is slowing or that businesses are so frustrated by the labor shortage that they stopped actively looking for workers, according to Kurt Bauer, WMC’s president/CEO. Still, the labor shortage continues to be the top public policy issue facing Wisconsin, according to businesspeople. Fifty percent of respondents rank it number one. Heath care is again the number two concern (18 percent) and high taxes is third (9 percent). In other findings: •

President Donald Trump’s approval rating was unchanged at 79% from the survey conducted in June. WMC did not ask a question about Scott Walker’s or Tony Evers’ approval rating in this survey. 70% either strongly or somewhat support the new United States Mexico Canada Trade Agreement. Previous surveys had shown a majority supported renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement. | WMC CEO Economic Survey

In June, 45% of survey respondents supported the Trump Administration’s proposed tariffs, but that was before they took effect and before the retaliatory tariffs. 37% now say the tariffs have had a negative effect on their business to just 5% who say the effect has been positive. 50.7% said the tariffs had no effect. In the open-ended question about tariffs, the consensus was that they are driving up the cost of materials, particularly steel and aluminum. 66% say the federal tax reform, enacted in 2018, is having a positive impact, while 2% say it is a negative. 23% said the reform’s impact was neutral. 72% support immigration reform to allow more foreign workers of all skill levels to work legally in the U.S. 66% strongly or somewhat oppose legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes. As noted above, the survey shows that Wisconsin businesses continue to struggle with the high cost of health care and 69% percent said that higher premiums are being passed on to their employees in the form of higher contributions. 21% said they have reduced benefits offered to their employees because of health care costs. n


Do you think Wisconsin is heading in the right or wrong direction?

7% 28%

Do you think the US is heading in the right or wrong direction?

89% 68%

Wrong Direction





Right Direction

Thinking about the US imposed and retaliatory tariffs, have they had a positive, negative, or neutral impact on your business?



Has the federal tax reform package had a positive, negative or neutral impact on your business?




2% Negative



What is the top public policy issue facing Wisconsin?

Health Care Costs


Labor Shortage/Lack of Qualified Applicants

High Taxes

50% WMC CEO Economic Survey |


Winter 2019 25

Luncheon Showcases Wisconsin’s Strengths T he state of the Wisconsin economy is strong, and that is exactly what WMC President & CEO Kurt Bauer said in his State of Wisconsin Business and Industry remarks at the annual WMC Foundation Business & Industry Luncheon held in October. The event was chock-full of speakers and panels that praised the status of Wisconsin’s economy and called for the state to continue on the same path it has been on for years. The Madison-based event came about one month before Election Day, and most of the speakers had positive remarks about where the state was headed. In fact, one speaker explained why Wisconsin is getting attention nationally and internationally as a place to do business. Brian Smith, a Partner at EY and an international site selector who worked with Haribo and Foxconn, said

26 Winter 2019

Wisconsin is a good place for businesses to locate because it provides fiscal stability, has an improving tax climate and a quality labor force. All of these are reasons why two of his well-known clients chose the state to expand. The event also featured a panel of three economists discussing what Wisconsin could do to continue trending in the right direction, economically. The panel featured Noah Williams from UW-Madison’s Center for Research on the Wisconsin Economy, Orphe Divounguy from the Illinois Policy Institute and John Phelan from the Center of the American Experiment in Minnesota. The three discussed how each Midwest state differed, and why Wisconsin should be looked to as an example of how to promote economic growth. Divounguy specifically mentioned that Illinois has been “ruined” over the last | Business & Industry Luncheon

few decades, citing a declining population, sky-high taxes and ever-increasing government debt. He and Williams argued Wisconsin was nearly the exact opposite. Being held in October gave the Business & Industry luncheon a unique opportunity to highlight the state’s largest economic sector: Manufacturing. It was a stop on the WMC Foundation Manufacturing Tour and the event helped crown the winner of the Coolest Thing Made in Wisconsin. The multi-month contest culminated with an exciting announcement of the finalists and the winner – Uncle Mike’s Bake Shoppe – was crowned champion. The Business & Industry Luncheon garnered 400 attendees and once again proved why it is a cornerstone event for WMC Foundation. Stay tuned for details about the 2019 luncheon! n

Have You Received Your Health Insurance Quote Yet?

WMC Insurance’s EmployerPulse Association Health Plan (AHP) provides small to medium sized businesses with 2-50 employees an opportunity to reduce their health care costs. Employers have the ability to tailor their coverage in order to meet their employees specific needs. WMC Insurance EmployerPulse Association Health Plan (AHP) is available for employers/groups, brokers and chambers.

Questions? Contact: Robert Baker


Matt Flynn

608.661.6929 |

Winter 2019 27

BUSINESS DAY IN MADISON MARCH 6, 2019 § 7:30 AM - 4:00 PM Monona Terrace Community & Convention Center, Madison, WI





WELCOME RECEPTION: March 5, 2019 at The Madison Club, Madison

Business Day in Madison will take place on Wednesday, March 6, 2019 at the Monona Terrace Community & Convention Center. This event brings business leaders from all over the state together to discuss important issues facing the business community and our state. We invite you to attend what is certain to be an insightful program. This year’s program will feature ED HENRY, award-winning political journalist, chief national correspondent for FOX News and New York Times bestselling author; DENNIS PRAGER, bestselling author, columnist and nationally syndicated radio talk show host; TRAVIS MILLS, retired United States Army staff sergeant, recalibrated warrior, motivational speaker, actor and advocate for veterans and amputees; GOVERNOR TONY EVERS (invited); and a BUSINESS CEO PANEL. You are invited to a Welcome Reception at the Madison Club on the evening before, Tuesday, March 5, 2019 from 5:00 - 7:00 PM. Early Bird Individual Registration: $145/per person; Early Bird Table of 8: $1,100 NOTE: *Early-bird registration will close on February 15, 2019, and the price will increase to $175 for individual registrations and $1,300 for a table of 8. Visit to register!

28 Winter 2019 |

For sponsorship opportunities, contact Brittany Rockwell at WMC, or 608.661.6917.

SuccessWorks: Your Key to Recruiting Great Talent By Rebekah Pryor Paré Executive Director, SuccessWorks


or small and medium-sized business, it can be tough to recruit students on large campuses when you’re going head-to-head with outof-state companies with huge brand recognition and even bigger recruiting operations. Where other colleges might let your recruiting operation priorities hit a wall, SuccessWorks at UW-Madison’s College of Letters & Science opens doors, giving your business access to a huge pool of talented students. Over 3,000 Letters & Science students graduate every year, with majors from computer science and economics to physics and communication arts. Our graduates know what they’re looking for professionally, and it’s not all about company name recognition. They prioritize location, company culture, salary and opportunities for mentorship. Wisconsin companies offer great opportunities for recent graduates. At SuccessWorks, our dedicated team works with businesses of all sizes to tailor recruitment approaches that yield the best, brightest hires. For Sentry Insurance, based in Stevens Point, partnership with SuccessWorks is a no-brainer. “At Sentry, we strive to create a rewarding work environment that helps associates advance in their own career and deliver real results,” says Hannah Krueger, College Recruitment and Programs Specialist. “We recognize the success of our business comes from the people residing in

our backyard. Across our company we work to cultivate that talent, looking for people who are curious, hardworking, and always looking to improve. SuccessWorks helps us to connect with students who share those values but haven’t heard about opportunities we offer and who we are.” These partnerships lead to tangible results for Wisconsin businesses. Recently, Yahara Software was struggling to get applicants for internships and full-time positions. Nate Doolin, Recruiting and Events Coordinator at SuccessWorks, worked with HR Manager Sharry Zhang on a strategy to connect directly with students in mock interviews, resume review sessions, and at a Career Fair Prep Night event. “Career Fair Prep Night allowed our team to devote more time with each student through one-on-one meetings without having to rush through the conversations commonly experienced at large career fairs,” Sharry says. The investment paid off: Since partnering with SuccessWorks, Yahara Software’s internship application pool has increased by 63 percent. “The SuccessWorks team is the ultimate solution in closing the gap between us and the university,” says Sharry. “They are a huge resource for our talent pipeline, community outreach and employer branding initiatives. The team helps us stay connected to events and students on campus, works with us to find out our needs, and meets our needs by connecting us to their vast

network and resources on campus.” For many companies, job and internship positions can get buried on campus. “At a smaller company, you don’t necessarily have the recruitment budget of bigger companies,” says Elly Davis, Talent Acquisition Specialist at Caravel Autism Health. “That’s why we appreciate the work SuccessWorks has done to give us opportunities to network with students on a more personal level.” SuccessWorks helped Elly optimize her job listings, reach out to specific academic departments, and send the positions to targeted groups of students. As a result, Caravel Autism Health scheduled two interviews on the UW-Madison campus. Hiring success for Wisconsin companies means success for Letters & Science students, too. As SuccessWorks gives you opportunities to interact with our students through networking and events, our staff will help you make the most of your on-campus visits, helping you distinguish your company at UW as you hire the right candidates for your business. We work for you, and most of our services are free. n Angie White, Duane Cooper, Nate Doolin and Janine Yeh also contributed to this article. To start a conversation on how to optimize recruiting at UW-Madison’s College of Letters & Science, contact our team at careers@ls.wisc. edu, or 608-262-3921.

Education Voice |

Winter 2019 29


This event brought to you by:

Trade and Tariffs February 22, 2018

The Pfister Hotel, Milwaukee • 7:00 - 9:00 AM

John Murphy US Chamber

Kurt R. Bauer WMC

Mark Kass Milwaukee Business Journal

Randal Baker Actuant Corporation

Bob Mortensen HUSCO International

To register, visit or call 608.258.3400. Presenting Sponsor

Table Sponsors

Event Sponsor

Sponsorships still available! Contact Wade Goodsell at (608) 258-3400 for more information. | Winter 2019 30

Presenting Sponsor: $5,000

Table Sponsor: $1,000

Event Sponsor: $500

2018 Coolest Thing Made in Wisconsin I n 2018, the 3rd annual Coolest Thing Made in Wisconsin contest took place to showcase the innovative, rewarding and exciting careers available in Manufacturing. The contest brought in more than 160 nominees and surpassed 170,000 votes in total for a second consecutive year. Johnson Financial Group sponsored the contest and crowned this year’s winner at the State of Wisconsin Business & Industry Luncheon on October 9. Excitement and hype on social media was shown throughout the contest on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook. After five rounds of voting and sixteen companies competing in the Manufacturing Madness Tournament, Uncle Mike’s was crowned this year’s winner with their Sea Salt Caramel Pecan Kringle, and they got to go home with the trophy crafted by E.K. Machine and EFCO Finishing.

C.C. Moo (Stoughton, WI)

2018 Coolest Thing Made in Wisconsin Finalists:

Cardiac Science (Deerfield, WI)

Uncle Mike’s Bake Shoppe (De Pere, WI) Sea Salt Caramel Pecan Kringle Uncle Mike’s Bake Shoppe’s Sea Salt Caramel Pecan Kringle is made with European style butter, filled with crunchy pecan caramel filling and iced with a homemade caramel sauce and was awarded the Best Kringle in North America. In total, the delicious and tasty kringle takes 3 whole days to make.

Medically Adaptive Feeding Tube Clothing C.C. Moo, LLC out of Stoughton, WI produces stylish clothing for children. This adaptive clothing provides ease and convenience to all families with infants and toddlers who desire a unique way to minimize the hassle of G-tube feedings.

John Deere (Horicon, WI) XUV835R Gator John Deere’s XUV835R is a utility vehicle commonly referred to as a “Gator.” The Gator sets a new standard for performance and comfort in the UV category and includes an impressive array of more than 90 additional attachment accessories. The accessories are completely customizable to meet new challenges and chores.

Powerheart G5 Automated External Defibrillator (AED) with Intellisense CPR Feedback Cardiac Science’s Powerheart G5 Automated External Defibrillator (AED) with Intellisense CPR Feedback is the first FDA-cleared AED to combine fully automatic shock delivery, dual-language functionality, variable escalating energy and fast shock times. Patented Rescue Ready technology selfchecks critical electrical components including the medical grade battery and rescue pads.

Coolest Thing Made in Wisconsin |

Winter 2019 31

Thank You to Our 2018 WMC Foundation Sponsors By Wade Goodsell WMC Foundation Executive Director


t was an impactful year at WMC Foundation! Throughout 2018, we worked diligently to amplify the impact we have, and thanks to all of our sponsors, we did. Our Future Wisconsin Project has taken the next step to solving our state’s long-term economic challenges with the creation of a Steering Committee and greater investment in research, as our goal is to be data driven and solutions orientated. Our Wisconsin Business World program grew to three summer camps in 2018, and we have provided numerous “mini” programs to schools in every corner of the state. In 2019, we


PMS 288

32 Winter 2019 | WMC Foundation

anticipate impacting 2,500 high school students in Wisconsin through Business World. Additionally, Wisconsin Safety Council continued its exponential growth this past year. The number of public and private trainings was at record highs, we hosted the brand new Safety Fall Forum in Green Bay and our Annual Conference was completely sold out! This year would not have been possible without the generous support from our donors and sponsors! Thank you to all of our partners in 2018:

WMC Foundation Executive Director Wade Goodsell speaking at the Future Wisconsin Summit.

3M Company A. O. Smith Foundation ABB Inc Agropur Inc Amerhart Ltd. Ameriprise Auto & Home Insurance Aon Risk Services Central, Inc. Apache Stainless Equipment Corp. Argus Dental & Vision Associated Builders & Contractors of Wisconsin, Inc. Balestrieri Environmental & Development, Inc BDO USA, LLP Blankenheim Services LLC Border States Bulwark Protective Apparel/ VF Imagewear Capitol Navigators Inc. Cardinal FG Central Wisconsin Information and Technology Alliance Certco Inc. Charter Manufacturing Company, Inc. Chase Bank Church Mutual Insurance Company CliftonLarsonAllen Colony Brands Inc. Conney Safety Products LLC Constellation Energy Cristo Rey Jesuit High School Deer Grove EMS

Mr. John N. Dykema EHS Management LLC Energis High Voltage Resources Inc. Enviro-Safe Resource Recovery Evan & Marion Helfaer Foundation Fabick Cat Faztek LLC FEECO International, Inc. Fitesa Flexion Inc Fond du Lac Fire Department Gener8tor General Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc. Georgia-Pacific Godfrey & Kahn GPS Education Partners Hausmann-Johnson Insurance, Inc. Heritage - Crystal Clean Mr. Kevin Hildebrandt Hydrite Chemical Co. J. F. Ahern Co. J. H. Findorff & Son Inc. J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc. Mr. Steven Johnson Kriete Truck Centers Lee & Associates of Illinois, LLC. M3 Insurance Madison Gas and Electric Company Magid Mr. Scott Manley Marshall Area EMS

Students at the Business World Summer Program held at UW-Madison.

Department Master Lock Company Mayville Engineering Company, Inc. McFarland Emergency Medical Services Mercury Marine Middleton Chamber of Commerce Middleton High School Miron Construction Company, Inc Moraine Park Technical College Mount Horeb Area Fire MSA The Safety Company Mt. Calvary Ambulance New Resources Consulting Nextera Energy Point Beach Nuclear Plant Nichols Paper Products Company Northern Illinois University National Safety Education Center Old National Bank Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce Park Falls Area Chamber of Commerce Pearl Engineering Corp Plumbers Local 75 Portage County Business Council Portwest LLC RGL Robert W Baird Foundation Rockford Systems, LLC Royle Printing Company RSM US LLP

Ryan Companies S. C. Johnson & Son, Inc. Sauk Prairie Ambulance Schenck S.C. Seats Incorporated Sentry Equipment Corp. Skyward, Inc. Southwest Airlines Southwest Health Center Inc. Stantec Consulting Services Inc. Stevens Construction Corp. Suttner Accounting, Inc. The George Kress Foundation Inc. Tyndale Company United Healthcare of WI VelocityEHS Mr. Donald D. Wahlin Waukesha County Technical College Wegner CPAs West Bend Area Chamber of Commerce Westex by Milliken Wisco Investment Management LLC Wisconsin Bankers Association Wisconsin Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers Wisconsin Center for Manufacturing & Productivity Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development Wisconsin Lift Truck Corp. Xcel Energy Zero Zone, Inc.

WMC Foundation |

Winter 2019 33

The Future Wisconsin Project Steering Committee at the 2018 Future Wisconsin Summit.

Research & Data to Drive Future Wisconsin Project By Wade Goodsell WMC Foundation Executive Director


ata-driven and solutions-oriented became the drumbeat for the Future Wisconsin Project in

2018. Over the past half-decade, educators, policymakers and business leaders have understood and articulated the ‘workforce issue.’ Simply stated, it is a confluence of the skills gap and body gap. Like the rest of the country, Wisconsin has an aging population, aging workforce, below replacement level birth rate and a generation in the workforce that grew up without shop class or ‘industrial arts’ being offered in middle and high schools. The problem is understood and widely felt by employers nationally. As the Future Wisconsin Project charted our next five-year chapter in 2018, it was time to quit talking about the problem and time to begin solving it. Our strategy? Focus on a data-driven and solutions-oriented approach.

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Hire the best. Gather the brightest. The Future Wisconsin Project Steering Committee was formed with 25 different organizations, representing banking, technology, manufacturing, food processing, insurance, telecommunications, energy, accounting, consulting, government and academia. It is a big tent approach to gauge Wisconsin’s economic competitiveness through a five-, 10- and 20-year lens. The leader- | Future Wisconsin Project

ship of the project engaged Ted Abernathy of Economic Leadership based in Raleigh, North Carolina to conduct the initial Wisconsin Workforce Competitiveness Evaluation. Throughout the fall, Ted and his team interviewed 30 key stakeholders representing strategic geographic and industry diversity, while also surveying 50 thought leaders from across Wisconsin to better understand our state’s education, workforce and economic competitiveness. Ted’s research revealed the key strengths and weaknesses of Wisconsin’s workforce and workforce development system. Counter to our Wisconsin tendency towards humility, let’s first review the strengths highlighted by Ted’s findings:

Strengths • •

Strong work ethic High education levels

• •

• •

Effective and responsive technical college system Concerted efforts to address the state’s most serious workforce issues Increased state-level funding for workforce development Proactive talent attraction initiatives

Weaknesses • • •

Lack of workforce supply – simply not enough people in the pipeline Lack of projected working-age population growth across the state Skill gaps – especially technical skills, with some soft skills issues among younger workers Increasing divide along economic and racial lines, with more ‘haves and have-nots’. This is seen with achievement gaps in school and disadvantaged adults not participating fully in the workforce. Little awareness of in-state career options among K-12 school students Declining federal funds leading to a net decrease in workforce development funding

After identifying these six perceived strengths and six perceived weaknesses, the Future Wisconsin Project’s

As the Future Wisconsin Project charted our next fiveyear chapter in 2018, it was time to quit talking about the problem and time to begin solving it.

steering committee is actively in the process of reviewing Ted’s recommendations. Benchmarking against national and Wisconsin-specific data, identifying national best practices and understanding that the ballyhooed ‘silver bullet’ doesn’t exist for solving the skills gap or the body gap. Only an intricate blend of short-, mid- and longterm strategies combined can help in mitigating the issue. Key recommendations include: upskilling existing workers, improving career pathways, strengthening apprenticeships, youth apprenticeships and other work-based learning for students, promoting career awareness, attracting and retaining talent and reaching disconnected groups. In interviews and survey responses,

Future Wisconsin Steering Committee Chairman Steve Johnson leads the discussion at the first Steering Committee meeting in July.

one of the main points that leaders drove home is the need for businesses to boost engagement – starting with schools, students, parents and teachers. If Wisconsin companies expect improvement in workforce conditions, they will need to be a prominent voice for change, to deepen collaboration with workforce partners, to invest and to lead by example. This engagement will be evident this spring as the Future Wisconsin Project’s steering committee and leadership will conduct a statewide tour releasing their core recommendations, highlighting statewide and national best practices, engaging other stakeholders and identifying next steps. Together, we will use a data-driven and solutions-oriented approach to address our economic future not just in 2019, but in 2029 and beyond. n The Future Wisconsin Project is a program of WMC Foundation aimed at solving the state’s long-term economic challenges through data-driven and solutions-oriented research. To find out how you can invest in this project, please contact WMC Foundation Executive Director Wade Goodsell at or 608.258.3400.

Ted Abernathy speaking at the Future Wisconsin Summit in November.

Future Wisconsin Project |

Winter 2019 35

WMC Staff News WMC’s Bauer to Chair National Manufacturing Group A trade group representing state manufacturers associations has elected the chief executive of Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) as its chairman. Kurt Bauer, who has led WMC since 2011, was elected in December to serve as chair of the Council of State Manufacturers Associations (COSMA). Bauer will chair the national organization for two years. COSMA represents manufacturing trade associations in all 50 states, plus Puerto Rico. COSMA also partners with the Washington, D.C.-based National Association of Manufacturers. “I am humbled and honored to have been selected to lead such an impactful organization,” said Bauer. “Manufacturing is critical to the state and national economy, and I look forward to working with my colleagues across the country to strengthen the industry.” Bauer is the third WMC chief executive to chair COSMA. Jim Haney and Paul Hassett were also elected by their peers to lead COSMA. Bauer is also a member of the National Association of Manufacturers Board of Directors, Council of State Chambers of Commerce, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Public Affairs Committee, the University of Wisconsin System Business Advisory Council and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s Advisory Council on Agriculture, Small Business and Labor.

Yeutter promoted to President of WMC Insurance & Safety Services Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) announced on Monday that Katie Yeutter would become the new President of WMC Insurance & Safety Services. She will also continue to serve as WMC’s Chief Operating Officer/Chief Financial Officer. Yeutter’s new title reflects her increased oversight and management of WMC Insurance and Wisconsin Safety Council – two affiliate organizations of WMC. Under her leadership, WMC Insurance has grown its line of business rapidly. This includes the recent launch of EmployerPulse, WMC Insurance’s Association Health Plan that was formed in partnership with United Healthcare. WMC Insurance also offers dental, vision, and group life and disability coverage to its members. Wisconsin Safety Council has similarly seen tremendous expansion thanks to Yeutter’s vision and guidance. In 2018 alone, the Safety Council performed more public and private

36 Winter 2019 | WMC Staff News

trainings than ever before, had a record-setting and sold-out crowd at its annual conference and was recently named an Honor Chapter by the National Safety Council. “Katie is a natural entrepreneur who instinctively sees market opportunities and knows how to seize them,” said Kurt Bauer, WMC President & CEO. “She is also a gifted problem-solver, and the two combined skill sets are formidable assets for WMC.” Progressing toward 2019, Yeutter will continue the expansive development of both lines of business for WMC, which will create new opportunities to better serve the organization’s members. “An important part of WMC’s mission of serving Wisconsin’s business community is providing affordable products and services,” said Yeutter, who joined WMC in 2016. “My goal is build top quality product lines that offer WMC member businesses a competitive advantage.”

Lane Ruhland Joins WMC as Director of Environmental & Energy Policy Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) announced Monday that Lane Ruhland would be the organization’s new Director of Environmental & Energy Policy. Ruhland is an attorney and former staffer at the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ). “Lane will be an outstanding addition to the WMC team,” said Scott Manley, WMC Senior Vice President of Government Relations. “Her unique background in the state Legislature and Attorney General’s office will be extremely valuable as an advocate for our members.” Ruhland most recently served as Special Counsel and Deputy Chief of Staff for Attorney General Brad Schimel, a post she was promoted to after being DOJ’s Director of Government Affairs. Previously, she practiced law privately, focusing mostly on campaign finance and election law, served as an advisor to state Sen. Jerry Petrowski and was Legal Counsel for the Republican Party of Wisconsin. “I am thrilled to be joining such a strong team at WMC,” added Ruhland. “Wisconsin’s business community faces a challenging regulatory environment, and it is important for them to have a strong advocate in Madison.” Ruhland was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas, and she earned her B.A. and law degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She currently lives in Waunakee with her husband, Tyler, and their son. Her first day was Monday, Dec. 17. n

WMC Staff Kurt Bauer President & CEO Scott Manley Sr. Vice President of Government Relations Katie Yeutter President of Insurance & Safety Services; COO/CFO Ashley Allen Communications & Marketing Coordinator Robert Baker Director of Insurance Services, WMC Insurance David Bartscher Video Production Manager Bob Benitez Membership Development Manager Stephanie Blumer Administrative Assistant, Safety Council Nancy Boehnen Assistant to the President/ Board

Chevon Cook Safety Manager, Safety Council

Adam Jordahl Associate Director of Government Relations

Barb Deans Associate Director, Safety Council

Kay Kertz Senior Director of Finance

Kim Drake Communications & Marketing Manager Cory Fish Director of Tax, Transportation & Legal Affairs Matt Flynn Senior Business Development Manager, WMC Insurance Wade Goodsell Executive Director, WMC Foundation Michelle Grajkowski Manager, Business World Ana Hamil* Customer Relations Specialist, Safety Council

Rich Laufenberg Employee Benefits Administrative Manager

Kyle Pankow* Graphic Designer Amanda Pavalec Human Resources Manager Leigh Price* Membership Development Manager

Dawn Mangin Accounting Coordinator

Chris Reader Director of Health & Human Resources Policy

Janet Metzger Executive Director, Safety Council

Brittany Rockwell Director of Small Business Advocacy

Shelly Millar Administrative / Accounting Assistant

Lane Ruhland* Director of Environmental & Energy Policy

Nick Novak Director of Communications & Marketing

Leah Supensky Associate Director of Public Relations

Susan Nyffenegger* Executive Assistant

Mallory Wipperman Associate Director of Membership

Kady Olson Senior Safety Manager, Safety Council

WMC Staff |

*not pictured

Winter 2019 37

Loftus Delivers Keynote at Statesmanship Reception W isconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) once again joined with the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) – the state’s teachers union – to present the bipartisan Statesmanship Reception in late November. The annual event aims to bridge the political divide in Wisconsin by bringing both sides of the political aisle together. The event was attended by nearly 200 people, including the newly-elected Gov. Tony Evers, and the keynote address was delivered for former Ambassador and Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Tom Loftus. An excerpt of his remarks are below: When Tommy Thompson was elected the first time in 1986, he had defeated an incumbent governor, Tony Earl, and faced a Legislature where both houses were controlled by the other party with big majorities. The exact situation the people of Wisconsin voted for Nov. 6: divided government. The four years of the first Thompson administration when he was governor and I was the speaker (speaker, 1983-1991) of the Assembly were the most productive four years of divided government in Wisconsin’s history. Ah ha. You are thinking that is because Tommy was special and I was a

38 Winter 2019

brilliant leader. The Tommy Thompson elected in 1986 was Dr. No. The saint from Elroy came later. And I became the Machiavelli of nice because it was necessary and my nature. So there was an evolution but it had a history. At the start of the session before Tommy was elected governor – he was the minority leader – the day in the Assembly when the members are sworn in and the speaker is elected, Tommy Thompson took the floor and asked all of the Republicans to vote for Loftus as the speaker. So all the Democrats voted for me as did all the Republicans, a first in Assembly history. I started my remarks by saying, “The minority leader and I pledge an opportunity for the Assembly to proceed in a bipartisan manner. It is up to you the members whether you take advantage of the opportunity. As always we will try to proceed in a civilized manner.” You can’t get more bipartisan than that! How did it happen? Well, actually, I called Tommy and we made a deal. I would give the Republicans one more seat on the Joint Finance Committee, the seat they deserved because of their growing numbers, and in return he would ask his caucus to vote for me. | Wisconsin Statesmanship Reception

My knowledge and his knowledge of the history and psychology of the Assembly was such at this point we knew this would make the place better, more civilized, with less rancor. We did not want the rancor between the two parties that we witnessed in the sessions prior to the time he became minority leader and I became speaker. Also that session we formed a special Assembly committee on the future of the UW System co-chaired by the two of us. We traveled to almost every campus. Gave opening remarks and then listened. We did this so many times that at one stop we agreed he would give my opening remarks and I would give his. No one noticed – although a Republican in the audience did come up to me and say I was starting to make a lot more sense. So we knew each other. We were friends. n

Tom Loftus of Sun Prairie is a former member of the UW Board of Regents and speaker of the Wisconsin Assembly, and was the Democratic candidate for governor in 1990. He was ambassador to Norway from 1993 to 1998. From 1998 to 2005 he was the special adviser to the director general of the World Health Organization.

Future Wisconsin Summit Fires on All Cylinders


MC Foundation ended 2018 with the Future Wisconsin Summit in late November. The Summit brought in individuals from both the public and private sectors to discuss issues employers are facing in the workforce today. The Summit opened with a vibrant video depicting future trends and leaving the audience to their own imagination on what the landscape of the state could look like in the next 10 to 20 years. Shortly after, WMC Foundation introduced the Future Wisconsin Steering Committee for the first time. This committee is meant to bring groups from throughout the state together in hopes of tackling one of the Wisconsin’s biggest challenges, the workforce shortage. The Steering Committee is comprised of about 30 individuals who will continue to meet and discuss issues prevalent to the state. By working together, the committee can assist employers and individuals with hiring and retaining the next generation of workers. Initiatives to attract, retain and hire a talented workforce are in the works, thanks in part to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). Tricia Braun of WEDC spoke at this year’s Summit informing attendees on the progress of the state’s new talent and brand attraction campaign and how the state is continuing to address the workforce shortage through these efforts. Much of what Braun highlighted focused on advertisements across various media outlets including television, billboards, trains, coasters,

social media etc. and she even shined light on the 440,000 UW-Madison alumni currently living and working throughout the United States. In what was one of the most popular segments of the event, Ted Abernathy, Managing Partner of Economic Leadership LLC, previewed his report on Wisconsin’s economy and its future. (More about the report can be read on page 34). Abernathy used a multitude of data to capture the audience and really help them to understand how Wisconsin can move forward in a smart and coherent way. The program shifted to the workforce shortage and what some individuals and organizations are currently doing to address this issue. The discussion was moderated by Mark Tyler, President of OEM Fabrications and Chairman of the Governor’s Council on Workforce Investment and included the following panelists Pastor Jerome Smith of The Joseph Project, Alfonso Carmona, Superintendent of St. Augustine Prep, Dr. Tina Salzman, Business & Education Director of Hendricks CareerTek, Patrick Henderson, Director of Government Affairs at Quad Graphics and Ryan Stultz of ManpowerGroup Academy of Advanced Manufacturing.

Each of the panelists highlighted transportation as a critical barrier to the workforce shortage. However, Pastor Jerome Smith presented the audience with a question similar to what he first asks individuals seeking a job through The Joseph Project by asking, “Are you here because you need a job or because you want a job?” This question paved the way for the remainder of the discussion and Smith emphasized The Joseph Project Initiative to find meaningful work and lifelong careers in which these individuals will have an invested interest in. Next, Dr. Alan Yeung spoke about how Foxconn is continuing to invest in the state and how the company will work with its partners – public and private – to pave the way for future generations and sustain a high-quality workforce. While the workforce shortage is still prevalent, a myriad of ideas, inspiration and stories were shared to showcase the ways all of us can have a hand in helping to address the issue now as well as into the future. Stay tuned for details about the Future Wisconsin Project and how you can be involved. n

Future Wisconsin Summit |

Winter 2019 39

Leading Cooperatively with Barbara Nick Dairyland Power Cooperative is a $1.6 billion dollar wholesale energy provider with 550 employees, 3,180 miles of transmission lines and nearly 300 substations. Dairyland serves 24 member distribution cooperatives and 17 municipal utilities in the Upper Midwest, which deliver the electricity to 600,000 people. At the helm of the La Crosse-based cooperative is Barb Nick, President and CEO. Nick joined Dairyland in December 2014, bringing diverse experience from her 35-year career in the electric and gas industry. “Dairyland is in its eighth decade of powering homes, farms and businesses in rural communities,” said Nick. “We have a presence in four states, with the majority of our members in Wisconsin.” Staying relevant in a changing world is critical. “Providing electricity in the future will look different. Today, we have smart meters, smart appliances, smart phones…

all powered by a smart grid. In 20 years, we will need to be ready to thrive in an even ‘smarter’ energy world. I like using the analogy of the Jetsons cartoon series,” said Nick. “If it can be imagined, it will come to be.” Renewable energy growth is a key part of the future. “The Quilt Block Wind Farm, our most recent wind investment, was named Project of the Year by RENEW Wisconsin. Since 2016, we have partnered in

18 solar projects and look forward to more solar and wind expansions.” As the leader of an electric utility, safe operations is Nick’s first and last focus every day. “Safety is our #1 priority and our most important job.” Employee development opportunities have also been a hallmark of Nick’s leadership. “I believe that talented, ethical and engaged people are the secret sauce for long-term success. Our Dairyland team is committed to excellence,” Nick emphasized. Nick is an Independent Advisory Director for Mead & Hunt and serves on the boards of the WMC, Electric Power Research Institute, State of Wisconsin Investment Board and the Viterbo University Board of Trustees. Nick is passionate about literacy and lifelong learning. She is the author of Lenses of Leadership, A Call to Action and also writes and publishes children’s literature. n

POWER YOUR PROFITABILITY Neenah, Inc. decreased their energy costs 4 percent by taking advantage of technical, financial and strategic energy management assistance from FOCUS ON ENERGY. The facility was recognized by the U.S. Department of Energy for instituting global best practices in conformance with the ISO 50001 standard for energy management systems. Improving efficiency through effective energy management and employee engagement is helping our company stay competitive in a challenging business environment. - Chris Gethers, Operations Manager

40 Winter 2019 | Executive Profile



WMC Board Member S. Mark Tyler moderating a panel at WMC

WMC staff with members of the Small Business Committee at their

Foundation’s Future Wisconsin Summit on the importance of finding

quarterly meeting in December.

private sector solutions to the state’s workforce challenges.

WMC Chairman Jay Smith speaking with Gov. Tony Evers at the

Members of the Coalition for Business, Economic and Financial Literacy,

Wisconsin Statesmanship Reception, an annual event jointly hosted by

including WMC Foundation Executive Director Wade Goodsell, meeting

WMC, WEAC and Godfrey & Kahn.

in November at WMC.

Wisconsin Business World Manager Michelle Grajkowski speaking to

WMC Director of Communications & Marketing Nick Novak leading a

students at a “Mini” Business World program in December.

panel discussion at the WMC Foundation Business & Industry Luncheon about the different policy choices made by Midwestern states and their impacts on the economy.

WMC Seen & Heard |

Winter 2019 41

Foxconn Changes the Game for Wisconsin By Matt Montemurro President, Racine Area Manufacturers and Commerce


wo years ago, if you would have told me that in the near future, Wisconsin would have the opportunity to be known as the electronics manufacturing capital of North America, I never would have believed you. But here we are, with work underway to make Foxconn Technology Group’s $10 billion manufacturing campus a reality, right in the heart of Racine County. Foxconn’s investment represents the largest foreign-direct investment in United States history and will result in transformational opportunities for the community, the county and the entire State of Wisconsin. While it will take time for Racine County and the State to feel the full impact of the investment, you can’t ignore the tremendous progress that’s been made to-date. Construction is well underway on Foxconn’s advanced manufacturing campus in the Village of Mount Pleasant, with more than $100 million in site work and the near-completion of the

CHAMBER FACT Racine November 1834 - Captain Gilbert Knapp accompanied by three men came to the mouth of the Root River, built a hut and made the first settlement in Racine County which he called “Port Gilbert”

42 Winter 2019

first building on the campus. To date, Foxconn and associated infrastructure construction projects have created thousands of jobs, employing Wisconsinites from all around the State – including locals from the City of Racine and Racine County who have struggled to find employment in recent years. These thousands of jobs are just the beginning. When complete, the Wisconn Valley Science and Technology Park will employ up to 13,000 individuals in high-paying, family-supporting positions in advanced manufacturing, engineering, and a range of other fields. The campus will signal Racine County’s return to its hardworking manufacturing roots, while also positioning the County and State to be at the forefront of the world’s latest technological advancements. As the company anticipates annual supply chain spending of up to $1.4 billion in Wisconsin, businesses from all | Chamber Voice

over the state are preparing for the opportunity to do business with Foxconn. Supplier Readiness Sessions hosted by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), its regional partners and Foxconn officials, are helping to prepare these businesses for what could very well be exponential growth. These are just a few of the impacts of Foxconn’s investment, and they barely scratch the surface. Foxconn has and will continue to act as a catalyst for growth and economic development. In Racine County and throughout the state, businesses are expanding and hiring. Ancillary growth, including numerous hospitals, health care facilities, housing and retail developments, and additional manufacturing operations, are all in the works. It’s a transformational time for the State of Wisconsin. We have a new company and industry investing in our communities, we’ve got new job opportunities across the state, and we have new elected leadership preparing to take the helm. At the Racine Area Manufacturers and Commerce (RAMAC) our membership is rapidly growing. We are “Racine’s Business Champion” and the voice of the business community in Racine County. As such, we look forward to working with the incoming administration to share our excitement and support for the Foxconn project, and work closely with the administration to maximize the benefits of this unprecedented investment and opportunity for our entire state. n

Do You Know a High School Student Interested in Business?

2019 Summer Camps June 16-19

St. Norbert College

June 23-26 UW-Madison

July 14-17

UW-Stevens Point

For four days and three nights, high school students are immersed in the world of business on a college campus! They will learn everything from building a company and product from the ground up, to the inner workings of Wisconsin’s economy. Encourage employees to sign up their high school students for this exciting opportunity! Visit for more information or to register a student for the summer program. Want to sponsor? Contact Wade Goodsell at | or 608.258.3400.

Winter 2019 43


WMC EVENTS Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce Washington D.C. Fly-In February 12-13

Focus on Manufacturing Breakfast February 22 • The Pfister Hotel, Milwaukee

31st Annual Manufacturer of the Year Awards February 21 • The Pfister Hotel, Milwaukee Business Day in Madison Reception March 5 • The Madison Club, Madison

Business World 2019 Summer Programs June 16-19 • St. Norbert College, De Pere June 23-26 • UW-Madison, Madison July 14-17 • UW-Stevens Point, Stevens Point

Business Day in Madison March 6 • Monona Terrace, Madison

Foundation Golf Outing July 31 • Trappers Turn, Wisconsin Dells

Wisconsin Safety Council Annual Conference April 14-17 • Kalahari Resort, Wisconsin Dells

State of Wisconsin Business and Industry Luncheon October • Milwaukee, WI • Details Coming Soon!

WMC Policy Day August • Monona Terrace, Madison

Future Wisconsin Summit December 12 • Monona, Madison

Worker’s Compensation Law Symposium Fall • Details Coming Soon Wisconsin Safety Council Safety Forum Fall • Details Coming Soon Statesmanship Reception December 11 • The Madison Club, Madison


501 East Washington Avenue, Madison, WI 53703 | 608.258.3400 | | | 44 Winter 2019 n, WI 53703 | 608.258.3400 | | WisconsinMC | WMC501 | @WisconsinMC

WisconsinMC |

Profile for Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC)

Wisconsin Business Voice - January 2019