Cover Story: Cool stuff made in Wisconsin

Last updated on July 3rd, 2019 at 07:23 pm

Ours is a manufacturing state with a proud history of making STUFF. Wisconsinites have long been makers, and some of the most common name brands are produced in this very state. From small family businesses to large corporations, STUFF is being made all over the state, with a generous concentration in the Milwaukee metro region. Here are a few of the companies that are working every day to bring items to market. All of these companies and others like them have a growing need for skilled workers. As tomorrow’s workforce, someday you can be a part of making STUFF, too.

Snowblowers & pressure washers

Briggs & Stratton Corp. is based in Wauwatosa and  is the world’s largest producer of gasoline engines for outdoor power equipment. It is a leading designer, manufacturer and marketer of power generation, pressure washers, lawn and garden, turf care and jobsite products. Briggs turned out its millionth Troy-Bilt pressure washer, assembled at its Wauwatosa plant this year. The 109-year-old company makes 85 percent of its small engines in the U.S.

Jet engine parts

What goes into making an exciting product like a jet engine? It takes a lot of planning and pieces, and we make some of these parts in Wisconsin. Allegheny Technologies Inc. Forged Products is a global company that produces some of its specialty metal alloys for the aerospace, energy, oil and gas industries at its manufacturing facility in Cudahy.

Insect repellent

Campers and hikers tired of swatting mosquitoes have come to rely on OFF!, the insect repellent from SC Johnson. The brand launched in 1957 and today is used around the world. Based in Racine, SC Johnson started as a flooring company in 1886 and now is a leading manufacturer of household products, including well-known brands such as GLADE, PLEDGE, WINDEX  and ZIPLOC, and it employs 13,000 people globally.

Kitchen & bath fixtures

From sinks to showerheads to faucets, Kohler Co. designs and makes everyday products for home use. Besides its focus on stylish form and necessary function, Kohler faucet and fixture designs use less water, conserving natural resources. Based in Kohler, the company is one of the state’s oldest companies, founded in 1873 by John Michael Kohler. It now has 50 manufacturing locations on six continents, employing more than 30,000.


Crunchy, salty and delicious: Sweet applewood smoked bacon is the claim to fame of Patrick Cudahy LLC. Ham and deli meats are also produced here. Patrick Cudahy and his brother John founded not only a company in 1888, but a town – the company is still located in the one-time railroad stop called Cudahy.

Lip balm

You’ve probably seen or used Carmex, the curiously addictive lip balm in the yellow tube or tiny jar with the yellow cap. It’s sold in 36 countries. Did you know Carmex is made in Franklin? Carma Laboratories Inc. is a family business in its third generation – the Woelbings have been manufacturing their product for 80 years. Fun fact: they produce it in 1,000-gallon batches.

Outboard motors

Wisconsinites love their waterways and thousands consider boating a top pastime. It follows that Wisconsin is home to some operations of a leading boat engine manufacturer. Evinrude invented the outboard engine and industry more than 100 years ago, and they are built in Sturtevant at BRP’s plant. The E-Tec G2 outboard engines provide power (torque), fuel economy, and the lowest emissions, as well as a thrill on the water!


Polish, Italian, bratwurst, chorizo … Who doesn’t love a good sausage? Since 1945, Johnsonville International LLC has grown the small-town, family-owned business to become a leader of the meat products industry. Smoky, spicy and tasty, its products come in a variety of flavors and are sold in 35 countries. Johnsonville has been dominating this market for years from Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin, and now employs 1,400 workers.

Google driverless car windows

Headquartered in Twin Lakes, Wisconsin, Five Star Fabricating Inc. has specialized in high-tech automotive parts since 1979. It manufactures large, complex composite body panels and windshields known for their strength and attractive design, including the windshield and rear window for Google’s autonomous car.


Those who love music know the Koss Corp. name for its quality and clarity of sound. The world’s first stereophone was invented by John Koss in 1958. If you want high-fidelity, these special headphones offer the feeling of being surrounded by music, like going to an actual concert. Koss products are noteworthy for being made in Milwaukee.


If you haven’t noticed, cheese is a huge industry throughout Wisconsin, aka America’s Dairyland. The word is, our state produces 2.5 billion pounds of cheese per year (so says the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board), with 450 dairy processing plants statewide. Mostly a rural enterprise, Clock Shadow Creamery has been sharing the art of cheesemaking production since 2012 as the first urban cheese factory in Milwaukee’s Walker’s Point neighborhood.


Cree Inc. has been producing high-efficiency lighting for 30 years. At its manufacturing facility in Racine, Cree produces LEDs, an innovative style of light bulb that takes advantage of the most current technology and which is sold around the world. Cree’s LED bulbs are so durable, they are projected to last 22+ years, and some up to 32 years. Cree products have developed a reputation for savings through their efficient use of energy, as well as their long lifespan.

Power generators

When businesses or homes run out of power in an emergency, they might have to use a generator. And there’s a good chance that generator was made by Generac Power Systems Inc. Since 1959, Generac has been a leading designer and manufacturer of a range of generators and other engine-powered products, such as pressure washers. It has five plants in Wisconsin and is headquartered in Waukesha.


Wisconsin has mastered the art of beermaking. A driving force is MillerCoors LLC, which employs 1,300 in Milwaukee (at one time known as the “beer capital of the world”). A hundred-plus other breweries exist throughout the state, offering locals jobs, as well as homegrown products for their festivities.

Eco-friendly cleaning products

Rebel Green LLC, the Milwaukee-based eco-friendly cleaning products company, was founded in 2008 by two women, Ali Florsheim and Melina Marcus. Rebel Green products are sustainable, natural and made with concern for the planet. The company’s cleaning product ingredients are sourced from local manufacturers as much as possible.


VROOM! Is that a chopper I hear? Hit the highway on a Harley-Davidson, the famous motorcycle brand, born in 1903. These iconic roadsters are classic symbols of freedom and the thrill of the road. The adventurous machines are fabricated in Menomonee Falls. The company employs 6,000 people globally and has grown to be world-renowned as one of the most recognizable American brands.

Read more about Stuff made and built in southeastern Wisconsin in the digital edition of this new publication.

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