Buckley Brinkman

Coffee Break


Buckley Brinkman
Executive director and chief executive officer
Wisconsin Center for Manufacturing and Productivity (which oversees the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership and its offices in Milwaukee, Madison and the Fox Valley)
145 Crossroads Drive, Madison
Industry: Public-private partnership serving small and medium-size manufacturers
Employees: 35
Family: Wife, Karen


What was the smartest thing your company did in the past year?

“We continued to push manufacturers in Wisconsin to cooperate and share their resources for the common good. There are many issues that require bilateral approaches that no one organization can provide. Our state understands how complicated the modern industrial world has become and is putting together cutting-edge approaches to keep Wisconsin the top manufacturing state in the country.”

What’s new at your company?

“This has been a momentous year for our organization. We made significant changes to strengthen the Manufacturing Extension Partnership resources in Wisconsin. Our two centers (the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership and the Manufacturing Outreach Center at the University of Wisconsin-Stout) won a $16 million grant to develop a statewide model that combines their best resources, all the while building on our past successes.”

What will be your company’s main challenges in the next year?

“Our biggest challenge will be engaging our new combined resources and maintaining the high rate of return for our investors. Our teams focus on the results they deliver for our clients and we want to make sure those results continue – especially with the new opportunities that face us this year.”

What’s the hottest trend in your industry?

“The transformative technology that is changing the entire makeup of the industry. First, there’s the ongoing advances in additive manufacturing that make new designs, approaches, and techniques possible, transforming the way manufacturers satisfy their customers’ demands. In many cases, this technology improves our ability to compete in world markets.

“Second, connected devices increase our ability to compete even more. These connections can improve device performance, extend and deepen customer relationships, and broaden manufacturers’ participation in markets.”

Do you have a business mantra?

“The team can do it better than me.”

From a business standpoint, who do you look up to?

“I look up to the hundreds of people who work behind the scenes and give their own time to make the manufacturing community stronger and more effective. One of those people just retired. Mary Baer (former vice president of community engagement at the Waukesha County Business Alliance) made a huge impact for Waukesha County with her tireless efforts to connect community leaders, local schools and students, and manufacturers in order to open doors to new opportunities for everyone.”

What was the best advice you ever received?

“No cash, no mission.”

What’s the funniest thing that ever happened to you in your career?

“I was a newly minted MBA sent to a nearly century-old paper mill to turn it around. Breakdowns were fairly frequent and often occurred in the middle of the night. During one of these episodes, I was sitting by the paper machine at 2 a.m., totally exhausted, with absolutely no clue of how to fix the problem. Suddenly, two of my millwrights appeared and saw me holding my head in my hands in utter despair. ‘How’s that MBA working for you now?’ they asked. The value of book learning in the real world became immediately clear. Twenty-five years later, the episode still makes me chuckle.”

What do you like to do in your free time?

“I like to play golf, ride my bike and root for the Milwaukee Brewers. Every summer, my brother and I combine these pastimes and test our bodies by riding from Madison to Miller Park for a Brewers game. The Klement’s brats and Lakefront Brewery beer taste great after those rides.”

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