‘I make America’ in West Bend 
Event brings to light issues in manufacturing


August 12, 2014

 Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development Secretary Reggie Newson, shares a moment Monday in the parking lot of Manitou Americas, formerly Gehl Co., in West Bend with the community during the “I Make America” campaign.
Linda McAlpine/Daily News

WEST BEND - A picnic on the lawn of Manitou Americas, formerly the Gehl Co., attended Monday by employees, retirees and community guests was not only a party, it was a platform to raise awareness of issues facing American manufacturers.

The celebration was part of the “I Make America tour,” created by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers that is visiting 30-member companies across the country, of which Manitou Americas is one.

“It’s a great day to be an American,” said Manitou Americas CEO Dan Miller, during his welcome remarks. “It’s an exciting day to celebrate our partnership with AEM. AEM and Manitou both have a mutual dedication to supporting American jobs.”

 Beth Hodges of Indian Trail, North Carolina, entered her name in an online sweepstakes and on Monday Dan Miller, CEO of Manitou Americas, formerly the Gehl Company, in West Bend presented her with the keys to a new Gehl skid loader as part of the company’s celebration of the I Make America campaign. Employees, retirees and community guests enjoyed a picnic lunch on the company grounds. The campaign The campaign, created by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, is touring 30 member companies across the country to raise awareness of issues facing manufactures such as export policies and transportation.
Linda McAlpine/Daily News

The company has ties back to 1859 with the Gehl Co., Miller said adding, “We really have a deep investment in the local community as well as the preservation of jobs. We work hard to maintain a quality workforce.”

Corporate responsibility is also a focus of Manitou in trying to preserve American jobs. We really look to our political leaders to create legislation to help American businesses thrive,” Miller said. “We’ve taken steps here to invest in our future to ensure that we can come to the market with new and innovative products and we have a state-of-the-art R&D center here in West Bend that is allowing us to do year-round testing so we can bring our products to market faster.”

Miller said Manitou Americas has become involved with AEM “to bring awareness to the community, as well to the state and federal governments, the issues that directly effect our country’s ability to sustain business and manufacturing.”

Through the “I Make America” campaign, Miller said, “greater awareness has been brought to issues like promoting U.S. exports, transportation infrastructure and agricultural policies.”

 CEO of Manitou Americas Dan Miller speaks to an audience of employees, retirees and guests Monday in the parking lot of the company in West Bend, formerly known as Gehl Company, as part of a party supporting the I Make America campaign. Behind Miller is a custom-painted 2014 Harley-Davidson Road King that will be given away during the I Make America Harley Tour.
Linda McAlpine/Daily News

Albert Cervero, AEM vice president of construction, mining and utility, encouraged the audience to “get engaged in the issues,” noting that bills regarding highway funding and infrastructure impact “job creation, U.S. manufacturing and the quality of life that we enjoy.”

Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development Secretary Reggie Newson said he was pleased to be a part of the “I Make America” stop in West Bend and agreed the issues the campaign was highlighting were important to the state’s economic growth.

“We also want to make sure that our young people understand the importance and the availability of manufacturing jobs and the prosperity they can bring us in Wisconsin both locally and regionally,” Newson said. “In Wisconsin, we have almost 10,000 manufacturers that employ nearly a half million Wisconsinites. These are family-supporting jobs. We want to make sure our we provide the resources and that our state leaders move forward with policies, programs and services to be able to support those manufacturers.”

John Smithers of West Bend, who retired from Manitou America 18 years ago as its director of sales, said “it’s been a real pleasure to be a part of today.”

“It’s been like a reunion,” he said, noting he worked for the company for 40 years before retiring.

Beth Hodges of Indian Trail, North Carolina, said she first heard of the company when she entered an online sweepstakes to win a Gehl skid loader.

“I entered back in January and really didn’t remember doing it until I got a phone call saying I had won,” she said Monday afternoon after accepting the keys to the new loader during the party.

“I have sons who are 21 and 13 and I think we’ll come up with a good use for it, maybe to open a landscaping business,” she said of her prize.

Hodges said she was impressed with the company’s hospitality and would be leaving with good impressions of her first visit to West Bend.

“This has been a wonderful trip and everyone has been very nice,” she said.