Made in Dane: Invitation to Show and Tell!

Area manufacturers blend into our skyline, quietly going about their businesses of extracting ethanol from dairy waste or transforming mouse cells into artificial stem cells. But let’s specifically consider traditional, assembly-line factories and the most recent labor statistics: In 2011, an estimated 790 Dane County residents were employed locally as machinists, making an average hourly wage of $24.28, with a starting wage of $14.73 (experienced wage of $19.06). The annual average salary was $50,510.

Another 140 area residents ran grinding, lapping, polishing, or buffing machines; the starting wages averaged $12.13, and the average salary was $33,830. An estimated 910 people worked as inspectors, testers, sorters, samplers, and weighers, earning an average annual wage of $35,000 (starting at about $12.25 per hour, averaging $16.83).

My father worked as a time study engineer for McGraw Edison most of his adult life. Our family understood the importance of the factory to the economic survival of my hometown. Manufacturing jobs still put food on the tables of many of our friends and neighbors. In Dane County, an estimated 10.7% of jobs are in the manufacturing sector. Experienced welders earn, on average, $42,880 a year, and there is a desperate shortage of welders in this area, so if you’re thinking of changing jobs …

At its root, manufacturing is the turning of raw materials into a finished product. It began, in ancient times, as a cottage industry of individual artisans. The late 1700s married machine-based fuel sources like steam power with innovations like coke-fired steel processes, and the resulting industrial revolution changed the socio-economic landscape overnight. 

Today, mass production for mass consumption is the norm, and with the moving of factories from the heart of cities and towns to outlying, zoned industrial parks, we might even think it’s passé. However, manufacturing is a vibrant part of Dane County’s historic past and a key contributor to Wisconsin’s economic future.

In the April issue of IB, we will share our collective pride that, yes, a great number of products could be stamped with a “Made in Dane” seal. We’ll go inside area manufacturing facilities to showcase unique, innovative products.

If you work in the manufacturing industry and you would like IB to showcase a specific manufacturing business, send Editor Joseph Vanden Plas a high-resolution photo with a product caption, a description of the product (up to 150 words), and a brief company summary – we’ll take it from there. But the deadline is Feb. 22, so do it while you’re thinking about it (now!).