The Milwaukee 7 Manufacturing Community

The Community

The Milwaukee 7 region, known as “The Machine Shop of the World”, has a long manufacturing legacy as a powerhouse of the 20th century industrial economy. Manufacturing in the region provides 149,300 jobs, or 15.8% of regional employment, making the Milwaukee 7 region second for manufacturing density among the top 50 U.S. manufacturing regions. Manufacturing jobs are a core rung on the region’s ladder of opportunity – paying 31% more than the average job in the region. As the region looks forward to another century of strength in manufacturing, the Milwaukee 7 are embarking on a strategy to increase the region’s competitiveness in three core manufacturing sectors: energy and power; water technologies; and food and beverage manufacturing.

The Vision

The M7 region is well underway in implementing a collaborative infrastructure to address the manufacturing strengths, gaps, and opportunities identified through a rigorous economic assessment that engaged nearly 500 CEOs and 300 industry groups on 47 factors that influence location decisions. Focusing on strengthening the region’s human capital, cultivating research and innovation, accelerating exports, and enhancing supplier networks, the M7 region is investing in seven catalytic public infrastructure projects to support its strategy. These projects include a new Century City Advanced Manufacturing Training Center, industry-focused business accelerators, and new infrastructure to support regional exports.

The Strategy

Workforce and Training: The region’s overarching strategy seeks to better align workforce development with growth and job opportunities in energy, water, and food manufacturing. The Regional Workforce Alliance will work with local technical colleges and workforce institutions to align training and curriculum. In addition, the region will create more flexible and accessible onramps into manufacturing, including mobile training labs, veterans partnerships, and a Manufacturing Diversity Institute. 

Supplier Network: In addition to building academic-industry partnerships, the region’s industry network groups (M-WERC, The Water Council and FaB Milwaukee) are working to expand the depth and breadth of their supplier networks. Each industry group is developing a new business accelerator in their sector to nurture enterprises that fill strategic supplier network gaps. In addition, these three networks will undertake new efforts to better link existing suppliers to each other, leveraging respected local supply chain institutions at Marquette and the University of Wisconsin. 

Research and Innovation: While the region has a legacy of strong research institutions, to keep up with the transition to ever more knowledge-intensive manufacturing, the Milwaukee 7 are looking to spur research on more advanced applications. The region’s high-priority clusters present opportunities for manufacturers to pursue new products and services building on these advanced research applications. 

Infrastructure and Site Development: The Milwaukee 7 will upgrade and modernize regional infrastructure to better connect businesses to supply chains and workers to jobs. The plan focuses on strategically expanding public transit between residential and job centers, reducing highway and airport congestion, expanding capacity for water-borne freight, and building increased intermodal connectivity. In addition, the plan calls for new innovation infrastructure and infill development including major projects like the redevelopment of Menominee Valley into a manufacturing corridor. 

Trade and International Investment: While the region exported over $12 billion of manufactured goods in 2012, less than 25% of the region’s manufacturers report fully harnessed the export opportunity. The M7 Export Initiative will include improving alignment among stakeholders around exporting; supporting small-and mid-sized firms in developing export strategies; and leveraging large firms as catalysts for smaller companies. In addition, the M7 region plans to attract more foreign direct investment, building on a strong existing base of 655 foreign affiliates, each with more than $15 million in revenues, operating in Wisconsin. 

Operational Improvement and Capital Access: Wisconsin historically ranks among the top ten states in the nation for SBA lending and small business access to finance. In addition, the region has a number of long-standing public-private initiatives to address capital access for manufacturers, including initiatives led by the Milwaukee Economic Development Corporation and Transform Milwaukee. New initiatives will work with manufacturers to wrap technical advice for HVAC retrofits with off-the-shelf financing and to expand the region’s use of New Market Tax Credits.

The Partnership

Steering Partners: Energy, Power and Controls: The Mid-West Energy Consortium (M_WERC) Water Technology: The Water Council Food and Beverage Manufacturing: FaB Milwaukee, The Food and Beverage Council.

Industry: Milwaukee Metropolitan Association of Commerce, Johnson Controls, DRS Technologies, LEM US.

Education: University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, Milwaukee Area Technical College, Gateway Technical College, and Waukesha County Technical College.

Government: Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, Wisconsin Department of Transportation, Wisconsin Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection, and Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District.

Economic Development Authorities: Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, Milwaukee Economic Development Corporation, Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority, and Racine Economic Development Authority .

Other: Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership, Regional Workforce Alliance (Includes 3 Workforce Development Boards), 30th Street Industrial Corridor Corporation, Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation, General Capita Group, Wisconsin Trade Association, and WE Energy.