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Sep 29, 201601:03 PMMaking Madison

with Buckley Brinkman

Why is manufacturing so important to Dane County?

The Brookings Institute posted some exciting news this summer: Madison ranks No. 5 out of the top 100 metro areas in advanced industry growth. These are businesses that engage science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) resources and STEM employees to build cutting-edge organizations. Technology is key to these companies and manufacturing is a driver because 35 of the 50 industries are in manufacturing sectors.

Manufacturing drives Madison’s economy, as well. Many in our community separate high-tech from manufacturing, even though they are inextricably linked. These folks want to believe that technology and the knowledge economy will drive prosperity in the future. That’s terrific — and I agree — but that course requires a strong manufacturing base, even in Dane County. After all, we have the third most manufacturers of any county in Wisconsin, trailing only Milwaukee and Waukesha counties.

That’s right. Manufacturing is key to Dane County’s future. There are 527 manufacturers in the county, contributing $1.4 billion to the economy and employing 23,620 craftspeople in their operations. Manufacturing is one of the few sectors creating the economic value and healthy growth key to our long-term success.

Manufacturing also drives innovation. Manufacturers:

  • Fund over 75% of all private R&D;
  • Generate 90% of all patents; and
  • Employ 83% of all private sector Ph.D.s.

The science and scientists in our public institutions do terrific work, but it’s manufacturers that bring all that research to life.

The ability to embrace change and use it to improve productivity leads to a higher standard of living for all of us. Our grandfathers’ manufacturing wasn’t flexible or innovative enough to answer today’s challenges. By contrast, modern manufacturing drives innovation and implements technology by engaging the capabilities of skilled, motivated, and engaged people to transform visions into reality. These days, the best and brightest make a huge difference for the world in manufacturing.

Manufacturing keeps us competitive in world markets. Exports are a practical way to measure competitiveness in world markets and our manufacturers account for over 90% of Wisconsin’s exports, paving the way for our state throughout the world. Exports help our companies grow and raise our people’s standard of living. These markets challenge companies to deliver the best solutions to difficult problems and Wisconsin’s manufacturers answer that challenge. Our capabilities drive our economy to new — and more sustainable — highs. Our actions create great visibility and recognition, this time from the Brookings Institute!

Congratulations, Greater Madison! You’re a terrific manufacturing region!

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About This Blog

Buckley Brinkman is executive director and CEO of the Wisconsin Center for Manufacturing & Productivity and writes about the manufacturing sector in Greater Madison and throughout Wisconsin. He has a breadth of experience in helping companies drive growth, world-class competitiveness, and performance excellence, and has led efforts to save dozens of operations in the U.S. by finding new ways for them to compete. A Wisconsin native, Brinkman holds a business degree from the University of Wisconsin and an MBA from the Harvard Business School.

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