Minority Businesses Succeed in Wisconsin

Fusion Integrated Solutions Draws Upon State REsources to Expand Services
Fusion Integrated Solutions, LLC, based in Milwaukee, is an engineering consulting and design firm that designs automation components and production processes for manufacturing operations, energy generation plants, airports, correction facilities, universities and water treatment plants. CEO Seaphes Miller started the company in 2004 in Ohio and moved it to Wisconsin in 2006 when merging it with a family member’s information technology firm because of the open business environment here. Today, the firm has 75 employees in four offices: two in Wisconsin
and one each in Illinois and Ohio.

Fusion primarily works with its clients and original equipment manufacturers to integrate machines and control systems for use in specific production and packaging settings, specializing in the paper and pulp products industry but also in the energy generation, utilities and food and beverage sectors. While Fusion primarily develops and modifies automation processes using original components, the firm occasionally designs and builds customized equipment if an off-the-shelf option is not available.

Funding need for technology upgrade
To meet the emerging needs of the advanced manufacturing industry, Fusion wanted to develop 3-D engineering and design capabilities. However, as a small company, Fusion struggled to secure the capital to fund the initial software and hardware investment. So, in addition to approaching his bank, Miller sought assistance from the state in 2009. As an African American, he qualified for funding through the state’s Minority Business Development Program. The program manager shepherded Miller through the loan application process, and the state’s financing
made the project possible.

The initiative has been a tremendous success. Fusion surprised and delighted its clients with the new technology, and employees were energized to upgrade their skills with the latest design applications. Using 3-D design and modeling techniques helped clients, in many cases, reduce engineering, construction and maintenance costs because the realistic applications minimized errors and re-work. As more clients began requesting 3-D design, Fusion sought to hire and train additional designers and engineers to meet the need, and the company requested and received a second loan in 2011. This allowed Fusion to take on additional clients and more complex projects. Today, Fusion has become even more profitable and has doubled its client base, workforce and annual revenue.

Next Up
Due to its success, Fusion is beginning phase three in Howard, near Green Bay, and is adding 3-D scanning capabilities to further improve its engineering and design quality and cost. Through the state’s support, the company has added high-paying jobs in Wisconsin and become a model for other minority-owned businesses, receiving the 2009 Wisconsin Outstanding Small Business Award. Miller says diversity is a core value, and, in the relatively homogeneous field of engineering, hiring diverse talent from all walks of life is a key driver of success for Fusion. In addition, the company’s growth and streamlined cost structure allows it to effectively compete against lower-wage foreign firms despite a trend toward offshoring as companies seek to reduce engineering expenses.

Note: The Minority Business Development Program, through which Fusion received loan assistance, now operates through minority-focused organizations with seed funding from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. This new approach ensures that funds are more accessible at the local level. The American Indian and Hmong Chambers of Commerce have created revolving loan funds to support deserving businesses, and programs with the African American and Hispanic Chambers are in progress. To learn more about how to access available programs, contact Seyoum Mengesha of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation at (608) 210-6880 or seyoum.mengesha@wedc.org.

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