Monday, May 4, 2015
Arrowhead High School plans new manufacturing, engineering center
May 4, 2015 09:37 AM
Arrowhead High School in Hartland plans to open a new 10,000-square-foot manufacturing and engineering center at the start of the new school year on Sept 1.

The school board has secured the $2 million needed for the infrastructure, demolition, furnishings and technology, according to director of learning Bonnie Laugerman, but the school is currently fundraising $500,000 for equipment.

As of mid-April when the latest figures were announced, the school had collected $125,000 from business partners. The goal is to eventually raise a total of $1 million for new equipment, but only half is needed by the start of the school year.

The new manufacturing and engineering space will consist of two engineering labs, a manufacturing lab, an innovation lab and a design center. Presently, the school has a woodworking area, a small engines area, a seldom-used metalworking area, and outdated equipment, Laugerman said.

Demolition on the new learning centers is scheduled to begin June 1. Milwaukee-based Eppstein Uhen is the architectural firm, and Miron Construction, also of Milwaukee, is the construction management firm.

“We want to be more responsive to the economic need and to fill the workforce shortage gap,” Laugerman said. “We want to broaden our kids’ experiences and to give them a more purposeful look at their opportunities.”

Along those lines, Arrowhead High School is also offering two new manufacturing and engineering courses this fall. The first, Instruction to Engineering and Manufacturing, is a revamped course that provides more hands-on learning. The second is a completely new course called Manufacturing and Engineering with Materials. The materials will consist of metals, woods, plastics and composites.

“The simple fact is that Waukesha County manufacturing companies are clamoring to fill jobs that lead to well-paying and satisfying careers in manufacturing,” said superintendent Craig Jefson. “As in many other school districts, however, our students routinely discount manufacturing opportunities, including those that provide great pay and career path prospects, because of outdated perceptions that manufacturing is dirty, unsafe, and not lucrative. We need to change this perception and do a better job of introducing manufacturing as a safe and well-paying career path for our students.”

Those interested in contributing to the fundraising effort may contact Laugerman at (262) 369-3611 ext. 4204 or

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Walworth County Manufacturing Job Fair set for May 19
May 4, 2015 10:50 AM
In response to the recent layoffs at East-Troy based Erik Buell Racing and other area companies, the Walworth County Job Center is hosting a Walworth County Manufacturing Job Fair on Tuesday, May 19. The fair is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Walworth County Job Center, 400 County Road H, in the South Building at Gateway Technical College in Elkhorn.

Current companies planning to participate include Anderson Machining Service Inc., Brunk Industries, Echo Lake Foods, LDV Inc., MicroPrecision, MPC, Pinnacle Foods, Prop Shaft Supply, R&L Spring/Medicoil, Serta Simmons Manufacturing LLC, and Synerject.

Many of these companies asked if there was a way to reach out to those from Erik Buell Racing as well as others who recently lost their jobs, according to the Walworth County Job Center. Erik Buell Racing closed on April 15, affecting 126 employees.

The free event requires pre-registration, which can be done at the Walworth County Job Center or other local job centers. Job Center personnel are also available to help prepare or update resumes, offer tips for a successful interview, and provide other services to help job seekers get hired.

For more information, call Rick Heine from the Walworth County Job Center at (262) 741-5194 or call the job center’s resource room at (262) 741-5180.

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Manufacturing sector shows contraction in April
May 4, 2015 09:42 AM
A key measure of Milwaukee-area manufacturing activity indicated contraction in April. The seasonally adjusted Purchasing Managers Index was below 50 for the first time since April 2014, according to the Marquette-ISM Report on Manufacturing.

The PMI was at 48.08 in April, down from 53.25 in March. Any number more than 50 indicates growth, while less than 50 signals contraction. The PMI has measured above 50 for 17 of the past 20 months.

In the April survey, respondents said:

  • Several new orders have been coming in recently. The issue is that customers want their product(s) right away, however, [our] products are custom made and need to be engineered. The primary delay is that parts need to be purchased to complete these orders.
  • Business conditions have been a bit worse than last year due to lagging sales. The biggest issue still is finding viable suppliers with superior customer service. There appears to be a lack of caring by businesses that the companies are dealing with.
  • Scrap steel prices have been falling fast.
  • Efforts have been made to start marketing more export business.
New orders, employment, supplier deliveries and imports grew in April, while production, inventories, customers’ inventories, prices, backlog of orders, exports and imports declined.

Regarding these indices, respondents said:

  • There have been unplanned customer order pullouts.
  • Orders are coming in strong but this will not have an effect on production for several weeks.
  • The West Coast congestion has been clearing. Consequently, shipments that were once caught on the West Coast have begun flowing in now.
  • Backlogs have increased due to the increase in orders.
Seasonally adjusted blue collar employment increased from 51.9 in March to 52.6 in April, while seasonally adjusted white collar employment declined from 46.1 in March to 44.6 in April.

In the six-month outlook on business conditions, respondents indicated a downward shift in positive expectations compared with March. Approximately 46.2 percent of respondents expect positive conditions over the next six months, 53.8 percent expect conditions to remain the same and none of the respondents expect conditions to worsen within the next six months.

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MRA survey shows turnover high among Midwestern manufacturers
May 4, 2015 09:49 AM
The full-time employee turnover rate among Midwestern manufacturing companies is about 18 percent, according to new survey from MRA-The Management Association.

The survey included manufacturers from 651 participating companies representing more than 20,000 employees in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and Iowa.

According to MRA, a healthy turnover rate is between 10 and 15 percent. Manufacturers reported the turnover rate was highest among production and maintenance employees, at 22 percent. Office and Technical employee turnover is at about 16 percent, while managerial and professional turnover stands at 12 percent.

“Turnover may be a metric senior management is interested in, but the definition of employee turnover varies by industry and by employee groups, which can be confusing,” said Pam Renick, director of surveys and research. “We wanted to add clarity around key employee groups and to make it clear that not all turnover is bad, as boomers retire and newly hired millennials bring fresh new ideas to the workplace.”

In response to the high turnover rate, employers are investing more in training and development, adjusting their processes for new hires and increasing communication internally. It’s a shift from last year’s survey, when employers reported they were conducting exit interviews to determine the reasons for the turnover.

“Employers have switched their strategy and are becoming more proactive,” Renick said. “These are all strategies which indicate employers are actively trying to engage and retain employees.”

MRA-The Management Association is a nonprofit employer association that works with more than 4,000 Midwestern employers on issues related to human resources.

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David Kohler to succeed his father as CEO in June
May 4, 2015 09:52 AM
David Kohler will succeed his father, Herbert Kohler Jr., as the next chief executive officer of Kohler Co.

At its annual meeting on April 29, the Kohler Co. board of directors elected Herbert Kohler to the new role of executive chairman, effective June 1. He will continue to chair the board, lead its executive committee, oversee shareholder communications, manage corporate mergers and acquisitions and the Hospitality & Real Estate Group.

David Kohler, 48, who has been serving as president and chief operating officer since 2009, was elected to be president and CEO today. He will be the fourth generation of the family to lead the company. His duties will expand to include responsibility for the company’s corporate staff and three of its business groups.

Herbert Kohler said, “I am confident that after 24 years with the company and seven years as president and COO, David is prepared to take on the chief executive role and to grow Kohler Co.”

David Kohler has a track record of increasingly progressive leadership positions at Kohler Co. and experience with other companies. He will advance the company’s three-plank sustainability platform: reducing its environmental footprint, developing more plumbing product options that enable consumers to conserve water in their homes, and supporting important environmental awareness and education causes.

“Business success doesn’t matter much if we can’t say we left the world a better place than we found it,” David Kohler said. “We are fortunate to have a solid foundation in place. Our job is to explore and to discover, and each day try to break new ground.”

David Kohler started at the company by working in every manufacturing division on the front lines during and after graduating from Duke University. He left Kohler to earn his MBA from the J. L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University. After Kellogg, Kohler worked at Dayton Hudson Corporation and rejoined Kohler as director of  fixtures marketing in 1993.

Herbert Kohler, 76, has served as CEO since 1972, after working as a laborer or technician in every division of the company as a teen, beginning full-time in 1965, after graduating from Yale with a bachelor’s degree in industrial administration. During his 43-year span as CEO, he built the company into a global organization focused on products and services leading to a better way of living.

Today, the company has 32,000 employees, has a brick-and-mortar presence on six continents, and is approaching $6 billion in annual revenue from $133 million in 1971. The privately held company has completed 48 acquisitions since 1982.

He developed  a workers’ dormitory into a five-star, five-diamond resort hotel which in turn led to the formation of the company’s fourth business Group – Hospitality & Real Estate – comprised of two of the world’s highest rated golf resort destinations in Kohler, Wisconsin, and St Andrews, Scotland. The Kohler courses have hosted five Major golf championships to date, plus the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in August this year and the Ryder Cup in 2020. Kohler’s Old Course Hotel will also host The Open at St Andrews in July this year.

David Kohler discussed his father’s foray into the game of golf at a BizTimes reception in Milwaukee on April 28. Kohler’s Whistling Straits golf course will host the PGA Championship for the third time Aug. 10-16. PGA CEO Peter Bevacqua said the event is likely to return to Whistling Straits for a fourth time in the near future.

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Global trade reps available to meet at Wisconsin International Trade Conference
May 4, 2015 09:56 AM
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. has announced it will make its trade representatives for 16 international markets available for one-on-one meetings at the Wisconsin International Trade Conference on Thursday.

The meetings are available to Milwaukee-area companies interested in learning more about exporting or enhancing their current exporting, and will be conducted from 9:45 to 11:30 a.m. at the WITC, which will be held at the Wisconsin Center, 400 W. Wisconsin Ave. in Milwaukee.

The global trade representatives will also participate in a panel discussion, moderated by Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, from 2 to 4 p.m. The panel will discuss international export trends, particularly in their markets, which include: Benelux, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, the Middle East, South Korea and the United Kingdom.

WITC is hosted by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce’s World Trade Association. Cost to register is $179, but the one-on-one meetings are available free of charge from the WEDC.

“This event will bring together Wisconsin’s trade representatives for 16 international markets, all in one place,” said Katy Sinnott, WEDC vice president for international business development. “It offers a rare opportunity for Wisconsin companies to obtain information about several markets in a short period of time, without traveling outside the state’s borders. The meetings and panel presentation provide a point of entry for companies to access the other services WEDC offers—such as market assessments, partner searches, trade missions and grant programs—to help companies grow their exports.”

For more information or to sign up for the meetings, contact Kelly Aschenbach at

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Strattec announces joint venture through VAST LLC
May 4, 2015 09:59 AM
Milwaukee-based vehicle access control products manufacturer Strattec Security Corp. announced that VAST LLC has executed a $12 million agreement to become a 50:50 joint venture partner with Minda Management Services Limited.

Strattec itself has a joint venture with VAST, otherwise known as Vehicle Access Systems Technology, which includes WITTE Automotive of Velbert Germany and ADAC Automotive of Grand Rapids, Mich.

Minda Management Services Limited is an affiliate of Minda Corp. Ltd. and Spark Minda, Ashok Minda Group of New Delhi, India (collectively "Minda"). VAST acquired a 50 percent equity interest in the former Minda-Valeo Security Systems joint venture entity, based in Pune, India, for approximately $12 million. This joint venture entity will be renamed Minda-VAST Access Systems, or Minda-VAST).

"This is a very important step forward in the strategic strengthening of VAST,” said Frank Krejci, president and chief executive officer of STRATTEC. “India is projected to be one of the fastest growing economies globally. In addition to the growth opportunities, it is important that VAST is able to properly support the global needs of our automotive customers as they expand both their manufacturing and marketing.

“We are very excited to join a partner with the history of success and capabilities of Minda and its affiliates. We view them as a leading company in the Indian market and they have also been very effective in playing an important role in supporting global programs. Minda-VAST will have operations in Pune and Delhi and is expected to have approximate annual sales in excess of $40 million US dollars.

“By being part of the larger Minda group of affiliated companies, we believe Minda-VAST will be in a position to leverage the manufacturing capabilities, technical knowledge and market position of Minda and its affiliates in this region of the world. Minda and its affiliates cater to the needs of all major car, motorcycle, commercial vehicle, tractor and off-road vehicle manufacturers in India. They are a leading manufacturer of security & access products, handles, automotive safety, restraint systems, driver information and telematics systems for both OEMs and the aftermarket. Minda Corporation Limited is publicly traded on the National Stock Exchange of India (NSE: Mindacorp)."

Accelerator Group LLC acted as the advisor to Minda for this transaction.

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Baldwin kicks off Manufacturing Jobs for America campaign
May 4, 2015 10:02 AM
U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) kicked off the Manufacturing Jobs for America campaign on April 29 along with U.S. Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) at an event in Washington, D.C.

The MJA campaign began last Congress, when Coons led a coalition of 27 senators to introduce 36 manufacturing bills, half of which were bipartisan.  Eight of those 36 bills were enacted into law.

In the new Congress, Baldwin and Coons will help re-introduce more than a dozen of those bills along with new legislation to support American manufacturing under the MJA banner.  

According to the National Association of Manufacturers, workers in manufacturing jobs earn 24 percent more in annual pay and benefits than the average worker in other industries. Every new manufacturing job created adds another 1.6 jobs to the local service economy, and for every dollar in manufacturing sales, another $1.34 is added to the economy.

“For decades in Wisconsin, we’ve worked to make things: paper, engines, tools and ships. These manufacturing jobs created shared prosperity for generations and strengthened the economic security of the middle class,” Baldwin said. “That’s why it’s so important that we drive the Manufacturing Jobs for America initiative forward and focus on rebuilding a Made in America manufacturing economy for all.”

Coons added: “If Republicans and Democrats are serious about getting things done and passing legislation to boost our economy, there are more than a dozen manufacturing bills we can pass right now that will put Americans back to work. We saw last Congress that manufacturing isn’t a partisan issue – it’s about supporting good jobs in communities across the country.  That’s why we’ll be working with members of both parties, from states all across the country, to pass more MJA bills this Congress.”

The MJA campaign has been endorsed by two dozen organizations, including the National Association of Manufacturers, the Alliance for American Manufacturing and the Association for Manufacturing Technology.

The kickoff event was hosted by Third Way, a centrist think tank based in Washington, D.C.

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Sprecher unveils honey root beer, apple pie flavored beverages
May 4, 2015 10:08 AM
Glendale-based Sprecher Brewing Company will raise a glass to its 30th anniversary with the release of a number of new beverages, including a limited edition Honey Root Beer.

The new variety of root beer is made with Wisconsin honey from a Germantown supplier and has a different profile from Sprecher’s original root beer, which also contains Wisconsin honey, according to the company.

“The new Honey Root Beer has the same great flavors as our original with the addition of a wild flower honey nose and flavor,” Sprecher brewmaster Craig Burge said in an announcement.

While Sprecher sodas have historically been brewed in a gas-fire brew kettle with honey included, Honey Root Beer contains 100 percent Wisconsin honey and offers customers a “richer” experience, said president Jeff Hamilton.

Sprecher Brewing Company has explored creating a honey variety of root beer before, according to Hamilton. However, it is not the most practical drink to create as honey can be hard to get and runs at a high cost, he said.

“We couldn’t possibly make this stuff all the time,” Hamilton said, adding that the newly released Honey Root Beer will be a treat for customers during the company’s anniversary celebration.

Sprecher produced 3,000 cases of its Honey Root Beer and bottled the beverage on Monday. Honey Root Beer will be available for purchase after packaging at the Sprecher Gift Shop, 701 W. Glendale Ave. in Glendale, and will also soon also be available in stores. The root beer comes in 12-oz bottles.

Additionally, Sprecher Brewing Company has introduced a Hard Apple Pie beverage, what Hamilton dubs a “revolutionary” product and one he anticipates other brewers will soon begin copying.

The flavored malt beverage, released separately from Sprecher’s anniversary commemoration, contains 5 percent alcohol by volume and tastes best when cold, according to the company. The beverage creation can be served by itself, used as a cocktail mixer, or serve in an “adults only” float – similar to Sprecher’s Hard Root Beer and Hard Ginger.

“This is the latest in our line of adult flavored malt beverages that began with Hard Root Beer in 2013,” Hamilton said. “We pioneered the first adult root beer, and now it has become a drink category with several competitors. Hard Apple Pie is another of those first-of-its-kind beverages. Every sip reminds you of eating a slice of homemade apple pie.”

Sprecher Hard Apple Pie, distributed in 12-oz bottles and in kegs, is available now in the Sprecher Gift Shop and will soon hit stores across the country.

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Industrial building planned in New Berlin for Spincraft
May 4, 2015 10:12 AM
James Luterbach Construction Co. Inc. plans to build a 72,000-square-foot industrial building on a vacant 11-acre site at 16100 W. Beloit Road in New Berlin, according to plans submitted to the city.

The building is planned for a specific tenant, but Luterbach has not disclosed who it is. In its submission to the city, Luterbach said the proposed industrial building is for “a company that requires very high tech assemblies that are engineered, formed, machined, and fabricated, to extremely precise tolerances in the aviation and related industries. This is an accessory and expansion use to an existing New Berlin company (Wisconsin headquarters) that has owned its facility for approximately 30 years.”

Based on that description, the building could be planned for Spincraft. Spincraft is a unit of the engineering technologies group of Salem, N.H.-based Standex International Corp. The group’s components and assemblies can be found in a variety of advanced applications for the aerospace, aviation, defense, energy, industrial, medical, and marine markets. Spincraft has a 115,000-square-foot facility at 2455 Commerce Drive in New Berlin.

A Spincraft employee told BizTimes that the company is planning a second building that would be built on Beloit Road. She declined to provide additional information.

New Berlin community development director Greg Kessler said rumors that he has heard from the "brokerage community," also indicate that Spincraft would be the tenant for the proposed building.

A representative for Luterbach could not be reached for comment.

Initially, about 20 people will work at the facility that Luterbach plans to build on Beloit Road, according to the information submitted to the city. The plans also indicate that a future building addition could be built to the north. When fully developed the site could have two 100,000-square-foot buildings, according to information submitted by the city of New Berlin to Waukesha County.

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Eaton Corp. shuts down Watertown product line
May 4, 2015 10:16 AM
Ninety-three employees will be laid off at the Eaton Corp.’s Watertown facility as a result of the permanent discontinuation of its printed circuit boards product line. The layoffs are expected to begin June 30 and continue in phases through Dec. 31.

The Watertown facility is located at 901 S. 12th St.

Headquartered in Dublin, Ireland, Eaton is a power management company serving the electrical, hydraulics, aerospace and vehicle industries.

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SC Johnson acquires Bangladesh brands
May 4, 2015 10:20 AM
Racine-based SC Johnson & Son Inc. has acquired three brands from ACI Ltd. in Bangladesh.

The global household product manufacturer now owns the ACI Insecticides, Angelic Air Care and Vanish Toilet Cleaner brands, which will increase its presence in the expanding Bangladesh market.

"We're excited to add ACI Insecticides and Angelic Air Care to our offering of market leading brands like Raid and Glade," said Fisk Johnson, chairman and chief executive officer of SC Johnson. "These brands will help us strengthen our footprint in the growing Bangladesh market."

SC Johnson, which  has $9 billion in sales and about 13,000 employees around the world, makes products sold under the Glade, Kiwi, Off!, Windex and other well-known brands.

The company declined to disclose any further details about the transaction.

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Beck Aluminum to move from Racine to Mt. Pleasant
May 4, 2015 10:22 AM
The family of companies affiliated with Beck Aluminum will move from Racine to the former Bosch Group manufacturing plant at 7505 Durand Ave. in Mt. Pleasant.

The 192,000-square-foot building is owned by Milwaukee-based Phoenix Investors LLC. The deal was brokered by Barry Chavin of NAI MLG Commercial.

Beck plans to add an exterior 40,000-square-foot covered high bay scrap receiving area to the facility. The company also plans to install new state-of-the-art furnaces to melt and recycle aluminum alloys.

The plant is expected to open this summer. Beck plans to add 25 jobs in its new location.

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Earnings roundup
May 4, 2015 10:25 AM

Cudahy-based Roadrunner Transportation Systems Inc. announced first quarter net income of $13.6 million, or 35 cents per share, up from $10.4 million, or 27 cents per share, in the first quarter of 2014.

Operating income was $26.8 million, up from $19.2 million in the same period a year ago.

Read more.

Waukesha-based Generac Holdings Inc. reported first quarter net income of $19.7 million, or 28 cents per share, down from $34.7 million, or 50 cents per share, in the first quarter of 2014.

The power generation equipment manufacturer reported operating income was $44.9 million, down from $65.3 million in the same period a year ago.

Read more.

Milwaukee-based Rockwell Automation Inc. reported fiscal second quarter net income of $206 million, or $1.51 per share, up from $180.3 million, or 1.28 per share, in the second quarter of 2014.

Operating income at the industrial automation and information company was $334.2 million, up from $302.1 million in the same period a year ago.

Read more.

Racine-based Twin Disc Inc. reported fiscal third quarter net income of $3 million, or 26 cents per share, compared with a net loss of $442,000, or four cents lost per share, in the third quarter of 2014.

Operating income was $3.3 million, compared with an operating loss of $342,000 in the same period a year ago.

Read more.

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Best Practices: The kind of training we need in manufacturing
May 4, 2015 10:32 AM
I've read many articles about the problem of America's “skilled worker shortage" and why we need advanced training; but most don’t define or explain what they mean by "advanced training."

I contend that the type of advanced training program we need for manufacturing is an apprentice program, which trains people to become journeymen, like the training programs in Germany and Switzerland.

Read more.

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Hilary Dickinson This exclusive news bulletin is compiled by BizTimes Milwaukee reporter Hilary Dickinson. This bulletin is published every Monday morning. Send manufacturing industry news and tips to or call her at (414) 336-7123.

Manufacturing resources
Manufacturer Associations » Association of Equipment Manufacturers
» The Association for High Technology Distribution
» APICS – the Association for Operations Management
» Fabricators and Manufacturers International
» National Fluid Power Association
» Polyeurethane Manufacturers Association
» Precision Metalforming Association, Wisconsin District
» Society of Manufacturing Engineers - Chapter 4
» Society of Plastics Engineers - Greater Wisconsin
» Tool, Die and Machining Association of Wisconsin
» Wisconsin Truss Manufacturers Association
» Wisconsin Biotechnology and Medical Device Association
» Wisconsin Sign Association
» Wisconsin Electrical Machines and Power Electronics Consortium
» Water Quality Association of Wisconsin
Manufacturing Advocacy, Leadership Training and Continuing Education » Center for Quick Response Manufacturing (QRM) at the University of Wisconsin
» Independent Business Association of Wisconsin (IBAW)
» FET - Federation of Environmental Technologists Inc.
» MSOE's Corporate Partner Network
» The Paranet Group
» TEC Midwest
» UW-Milwaukee Center for Continuing Engineering Education
» Waukesha County Business Alliance-Manufacturing Alliance
» Waukesha County Technical College Center for Business Performance Solutions
» Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership
Other resources » American Society for Quality
» Center for Advanced Technology and Innovation
» MATC's Energy Conservation and Advanced Manufacturing (ECAM) facility
» Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce
» Milwaukee Export Assistance Center – U.S. Commercial Service
» Milwaukee World Trade Association
» MSOE's Applied Technology Center
» MSOE's Rapid Prototyping Center
» Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.
» Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce
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