Kleen Test grows in county
Large business of year employs up to 1,000

By Laurie Arendt - News Graphic Correspondent

August 8, 2017

PORT WASHINGTON — Most businesses thrive on brand recognition, but Kleen Test Products, the recipient of this year’s Ozaukee County Business of the Year in the large business category, turns that idea completely upside down.

As a discreet developer, manufacturer and packager of products for its clients, Kleen Test is so successful for just the opposite reason.

“Chances are the products we manufacture are in your home,” said Kleen Test President Bill Ahlborn. “You just don’t know it. We’re partners with companies of all sizes and many of the world’s notable brands.”

It’s a successful business model for the 73-year-old, Port Washington-based company, which is being honored as one of the Ozaukee County businesses of the year.

What started out as a modest filter manufacturing business for the agricultural industry has since grown into a six-location operation that now has 600 full-time employees and a contingent workforce that can increase to 1,000 employees at peak times.

Kleen Test is a pioneer in the development of wet wipes and dryer sheets and is one of the world’s largest diecut pad manufacturers.

Its Port Washington plants produce wet/dry wipes, fill a variety of bottles, jars and tubes and produce dryer sheets. Its Mequon plant produces disinfectant and bleach products for the consumer market and milk filters. The company’s research and development team is also located in Port Washington. Additional facilities are located in Milwaukee and Ohio.

“Ozaukee County has been a good fit for Kleen Test Products because of its geographic location and the county’s commitment in supporting Wisconsin manufacturing,” said Ahlborn. “Everything we manufacture also requires water, and Lake Michigan has been a valuable resource for our production needs in Port Washington. In return, we’re able to return clean, recycled water back.”

Ahlborn also said that Kleen Test has been able to draw on a strong local workforce throughout the years.

“Our geographic location supports our future growth and also allows us to draw in talent from many surrounding areas,” he said.

Kleen Test was nominated by Todd Luft, vice president and brand manager of Associated Bank in Port Washington. The bank has an ongoing, collaborative relationship with the manufacturer.

“We’ve partnered with Associated Bank for nearly five years to promote their ‘Bank and Work’ program for our employees,” said Ahlborn. “We recently started inviting Todd and his team to attend our new-hire orientations so that we can offer this program to new employees.”

As a longtime employer in the county, Ahlborn said that the company continually looks for ways to support its employees as well as meet the needs of its customers.

“We recently completed a Five Year Strategic and Scenario-Based Plan for our organization,” he said. “This has engaged our leadership team to look 10 to 20 years in advance and try and put our business there, before our customers even know what they’ll need. Technology is changing faster than ever before, and we want to put those solutions into action to be the best contract manufacturer in the world.”

Businesses of the Year

Ozaukee Economic Development recently announced its 2017 Businesses of the Year. The annual award, which started in

2013, recognizes businesses that have seen significant business and job growth and are strong community partners.

This year’s honorees are:

Small business – Fiddleheads

Mid-size business – Exacto Spring

Large business – Kleen Test

The businesses will be recognized Sept. 26 at OED’s Business of the Year/Economic Forecast Breakfast at the Ozaukee Pavilion on the county fairgrounds in Cedarburg.