Milwaukee Tool might be southeastern Wisconsin’s most important company right now. It’s experiencing massive growth, and that’s leading to more good-paying jobs for the region.
The Brookfield-based company had 64.1% global growth in the first half of the year, according to its Hong Kong-based parent company, Techtronic Industries Co. Based on previous reports, Milwaukee Tool could exceed $6 billion in revenue by the end of this year.
The company has expanded its Brookfield headquarters and is now adding a downtown Milwaukee office where it is expected to have 450 jobs next year and could eventually have up to 2,000 working there. The company is also working on plans for a Menomonee Falls campus and is building a plant in West Bend.
Milwaukee Tool’s growth is a tremendous boost for the local economy. But its impact would have been bigger if the region was able to meet the company’s talent needs.
Innovation has driven Milwaukee Tool’s growth as the company has aggressively developed new and improved products. To foster that innovation, the company needs engineers. Lots of engineers. Milwaukee Tool has been hiring as many engineers as it can but has not been able to find as many in the area as it needs.
Milwaukee Tool group president Steve Richman recently revealed that the company has established an office in Chicago to help bolster its engineering team. By next year it plans to have a 70,000-square-foot space in Chicago and eventually 150 employees there.
Milwaukee Tool has hired several engineers out of area universities, including Marquette, MSOE and UW-Madison. But it needs more and has had to recruit graduates from out-of-state schools, including the University of Illinois and Purdue. In some cases, it’s easier to recruit those individuals to Chicago than Milwaukee, thus the reason the company is establishing a Chicago office.
Milwaukee isn’t the only local company with explosive growth that is looking elsewhere to meet its talent needs. Generac this year established an office in Massachusetts where it plans to hire up to 50 employees for technology-related positions, talent it has been unable to find here. Generac CEO Aaron Jagdfeld said the presence of MIT and other universities in the Boston area made it attractive.
Brookfield-based Fiserv recently announced plans for a new campus in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, with 2,000 technology-related jobs.
The consistent theme here is large, growing companies based in southeastern Wisconsin looking outside of the state to meet their talent needs. If those companies could fill those positions here, they would, but apparently they can’t.
For all of the talk about the need to lower taxes in Wisconsin and about incentives offered to attract companies or convince them to stay and grow here, it’s clear the bigger issue is our lack of talent. Wisconsin needs to do a better job of growing and developing talent. Regions that have the most talent are the ones that attract growing businesses. It’s really that simple.