Manufacturing’s local, global impact discussed at conference
Walker says industry is ‘the backbone’ of Wisconsin’s economy

By Dave Fidlin - Special to The Freeman

March 2, 2018

MILWAUKEE — The role of manufacturing on Wisconsin’s economy — and the impact it can have on a global scale — were among the issues explored at a conference Thursday.

Hundreds of professionals from across the region attended the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership’s annual Manufacturing Matters event in downtown Milwaukee. Officials from the Department of Workforce Development and Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation also took part.

Gov. Scott Walker kicked off the daylong program, touting the state’s top-10 national ranking for manufacturing job creation, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics.

“Wisconsin’s manufacturing industry is the backbone of our strong economy and a major job creator across the state,” Walker said in a statement. “By continuing to invest in training programs we are preparing Wisconsin’s future workforce for rewarding, family-supporting careers in manufacturing.”

Exploring exporting

Attendees took part in specific seminars, including a talk on the growing importance of exporting within manufacturing.

Roxanne Baumann, director of global engagement with the extension partnership, shared a series of statistics on the ever-growing need for manufacturers to look at exporting products. One overarching figure: 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside the U.S.

WMEP gathered other nuggets of information as well, including a projection that the global middle class will continue to grow outside the U.S. Currently, 79 percent of the world’s middle class population is outside this country; the figure is expected to reach 90 percent by 2030.

“We have a solid need in this state to export products,” Baumann said.

Glaselyn Miller, director of global sales and distribution with Lucigen Corp., discussed how the Middleton- based company has bolstered its use of exporting since adopting the practice 15 years ago.

Lucigen, a biotech firm, was founded in 1999 and recently was acquired. But Miller said it has been business as usual within the company, which provides products primarily to scientists.

Key markets

While exporting has been a part of Lucigen’s business strategy since the company’s infancy, Miller said the practice has been fine-tuned in more recent years by narrowing the focus down to four countries: Canada, China, Germany and Italy. By remaining laserfocused on the four key target markets, Miller said Lucigen’s overall sales grew 61 percent in 2016 and nearly tripled last year.

Miller also spoke broadly about distributors in other countries, who serve as the important drivers of exporting U.S.-based manufacturers’ products and bringing them into the hands of their host companies.

“Our distributors are our partners,” Miller said. “We want them to be successful. It’s a two-way street.”

Baumann and representatives from DWD and WEDC discussed resources — including grants — available to manufacturers interested in pursuing exporting. The collaborative opportunities are designed to soften some of the logistical challenges.

Exporting has been transformative for Lucigen, Miller said, but she was quick to point out it is not for the faint of heart.

“You have to be mentally and physically prepared,” Miller said. “You have to be able to handle some of the challenges that come with exporting.”