Finally, a real recovery?

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:28 pm

Recent increases in manufacturing activity are also fueling a surge in demand for temporary employment at factories in Wisconsin.
The Federal Reserve in early May reported that output of U.S. factories, mines and utilities rose at a faster-than-expected rate of 0.8% in April. Capacity utilization increased .4% to 76.9%, the highest level in nearly three years.
Locally, two temporary staffing agencies and some of their manufacturing clients are optimistic they are seeing an improving economy.
Historically, the staffing industry is a leading barometer of the economic future, according to Debbie Friedrich, affiliate owner of Westaff, a national staffing company with offices in Milwaukee and Appleton.
"Our company has seen an increase in business from our manufacturing sector. Companies that had been so lean are now rebuilding their workforce, not only with temps but permanent employees," she said.
"That’s very encouraging. In addition to the optimism of our bindery and industry customers, other manufacturing customers are optimistic, and so am I," Friedrich said. "We have an assembly facility customer in telecommunications, and their business is stronger this year. The same for another of our customers that does a lot of mass mailings. It’s been a tough road for Wisconsin manufacturers over these past few years."
Friedrich said business for her company is up at least 25% over last quarter.
"But some of that is seasonal-the nature of our business. The first quarter for manufacturing is usually one of the quieter times of the year. Then things seem to ramp up. We do expect to have a very good fall," she said.
Although the nation’s unemployment rate rose in March to 5.7 percent, QPS Staffing Services, Inc., Greenfield, reported that its total hours worked by staffing employees in the first quarter of 2004 hit record numbers.
QPS has offices in 12 locations, including Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha and Brookfield.
"Prior to our recent record highs, we haven’t seen numbers even close to these since the first quarter of 2001, right before the manufacturing downturn began," said Mark Immekus, QPS vice president of sales. "I think the economy overall is picking up, and the manufacturing sector is finally starting to see that. Inventories have been driven down so low that now manufacturers have picked up and started to produce more goods and products.
"They’re using temporary workers until they are certain of the recovery and can hire permanent employees," Immekus said.
Immekus said first-quarter sales for his company this year hit the $7.6 million mark, compared with $5.2 million for the similar period of 2003. He also said total hours worked by QPS employees were 44% higher in the first quarter of this year, compared with the same period a year ago.
He attributed the increase to the growing confidence manufacturers have toward the economic future of southeastern Wisconsin and the increased orders that need to be filled. He predicted those orders will continue to escalate. "The economic recovery is well in sight."
Jaime Maliszewski is a QPS customer who attests to an improving industrial sector. He’s president of Reliable Plating Works, Inc., and general manager of Elite Finishing, LLC, both in Milwaukee.
Reliable provides nickel chrome plating on steel substrates for companies such as Harley-Davidson Inc. and Master Lock Co. Elite provides copper nickel plating on aluminum and brass substrates for clients such as Harley and Kohler Co.," he said.
"Thus far, we’re having our best year ever. Reliable has grown about 33% and Elite is up about 50%," Maliszewski said.
Maliszewski said China’s inability to buy metals, caused by cuts in credit lines and rising demands for raw materials, is helping American industry.
"The printing sector is lagging behind the economy, which is heating up," said Larry Lopina, chief financial officer of Sells Printing, New Berlin, a Westaff customer. "But we now see growth and new opportunities coming up. Our schedules are very robust going into the month of June. I’m cautiously optimistic. Since 9-11, we’ve seen false starts and stops in the economy. But now I think the turnaround is actually here. But until you’re in the middle of it and see blue sky ahead, it’s hard to be totally optimistic."
Paul Slotty, owner of P.S. Finishing, Inc., a QPS customer, believes "the tide has turned" and is optimistic his company’s growth – which is illustrated by sales of $1.5 million thus far in 2004 compared with $1.2 million in all of 2003 – will be maintained at a good clip.
Slotty’s New Berlin-based company is a short-run book manufacturer that was created four years ago to repair and rebind schoolbooks.
"Understandably, our busiest time is the summer when we go from 10 to 75 temps. Now we’re able to sustain the number of temps that we’ve hired for longer periods of time. We’re getting busy earlier. We also fold Christmas cards for a local customer and do work for other printers in Wisconsin, Illinois and Missouri," Slotty said.
Slotty said he sees evidence that the economy is growing because his company is getting significantly more business from commercial printers. "We didn’t experience this a couple of years ago, but each and every year our commercial business has increased."

May 28, 2004 Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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Dr. Daniel A. Schroeder is President/CEO of Organization Development Consultants, Inc. (ODC). ODC serves regional and national clients from its offices in suburban Milwaukee. Additionally, he teaches in the Organizational Behavior and Leadership (bachelor’s) and Organization Development (master’s) programs at Edgewood College (Madison, WI), programs that he founded and for which he served as Program Director.

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