For more than a year now, we’ve all wanted to return to normalcy following the COVID-19 pandemic, but what that normal will look like has never been entirely clear. In this Innovate Wisconsin issue of BizTimes Milwaukee, our team set out to explore how the economy is changing and the challenges and opportunities those changes create for businesses.
These aren’t stories of pandemic pivots; rather these are the stories of trends accelerated or altered by a year that saw stay-at-home orders, a massive shift to remote work, changing consumer behaviors, growing awareness of racial inequities and more.
Take our cover story on Milwaukee Tool. Like many businesses, Milwaukee Tool’s leadership paused when the pandemic first hit, but they quickly realized the markets they serve would likely come back stronger. Instead of laying people off, they took the opportunity to invest and grow their workforce. In turn, that led to a need for more office space, including plans to renovate a downtown Milwaukee building and bring at least 1,200 jobs to the city. Associate editor Arthur Thomas’s story, however, goes beyond these headlines to look at how Milwaukee Tool has used innovation, a consistent focus on users and a desire for disruption to fuel its growth.
Innovate Wisconsin also isn’t just about new ideas and breakthrough products. True to the mission of BizTimes Media, this issue will help readers do the work of growing their own companies. The Q&A with Rockwell’s David Vasko highlights new technologies shaping the manufacturing world. Toppers’ CEO Scott Gittrich shares how tech investments help the Wisconsin-based chain keep up with consumer expectations. Office tenant broker David Pudlosky of JLL discusses what clients are looking for in office space. Mike Anderes of Inception Health describes how some technological necessities of health care will shape the industry going forward.
You will also find stories about startups solving supply chain challenges, fast-growing companies like Exact Sciences and Fetch Rewards, new efforts to bring venture capital dollars to Wisconsin, and ideas for how developing a more diverse workforce can fuel innovative thinking for companies.
Wisconsin’s economy has a lot going for it. We have great mature and established companies, a growing ecosystem of startups and entrepreneurs, and a workforce that is routinely praised for its work ethic and capabilities. As companies like Milwaukee Tool and others have shown, it is possible for the talent in this state to fuel staggering growth through innovation. These companies are now looking to bring others to the state to continue their growth, which can only help the state’s economy.
Innovation is a crucial part of Wisconsin maintaining the strengths it has developed over the years. We cannot rest on our laurels and expect to grow, especially in a world where technology is always racing ahead and the COVID-19 pandemic only accelerated many existing trends. We hope you enjoy this issue of Innovate Wisconsin and finish it with a little inspiration to create some disruptive change in your industry.