Wisconsin International Trade Conference News

Milwaukee 7 selected for foreign direct investment program
The Milwaukee 7 Regional Economic Development Partnership has been selected to participate in a program to create a foreign direct investment plan for the Milwaukee region.
Participation in the Global Cities Initiative, led by the Brookings Institution and JPMorgan Chase, will allow the Milwaukee 7 to build off its existing Milwaukee Region Export Plan to fortify its relationships with international investors.

Through the GCI, the Milwaukee region will have guidance on generating relevant data, developing policy and creating a network of peers in its pursuit of economic growth through exports and foreign direct investment.
According to the Brookings Institution, Milwaukee was selected for the program because of its efforts to include foreign direct investment in local transactions, like greenfield expansions, mergers and acquisitions, EB-5, private equity, joint ventures and sovereign wealth funds.

The Milwaukee region will be represented by Jim Paetsch, vice president of the M7; Katy Sinnot, vice president of international business development at the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.; Jenny Trick, executive director of the Racine County Economic Development Corp.; and John Bernaden, director of corporate communication at Rockwell Automation. The group will create a foreign direct investment market assessment and plan, an implementation plan and a policy memo with the goal of supplementing existing regional export efforts to increase Milwaukee’s international relationships and economic competitiveness.

Other cities selected for the GCI are: Atlanta; Des Moines, Iowa; Update S.C. representing the Greenville-Spartanburg-Anderson CSA; Los Angeles; and Syracuse, N.Y.

WEDC executive will be new CEO of BioForward
Lisa Johnson will be the new chief executive officer of BioForward Inc., succeeding Laura Bray, who has decided to leave the position as of May 1.

BioForward is the member-driven Wisconsin affiliate of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, and Advanced Medical Technology Association.

Johnson has served since 2011 as vice president of entrepreneurship and innovation at the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. Johnson will assume the role of CEO of Madison-based BioForward on May 4.

Prior to joining the WEDC, Johnson spent 22 years in the biotech industry, where she held executive business development and operational roles with Novagen, Inc, a successful life science tools company started in Madison and later acquired by Merck KGaA/EMD. During her 10 years with Merck, she traveled extensively, developing global partnerships for EMD-Novagen.

Bray accepted the position at the helm of BioForward last September after a decade as executive director of the Menomonee Valley Partners in Milwaukee. BioForward did not provide an explanation for her departure, and Bray could not be reached for comment.

The WEDC has had substantial turnover in several of its key leadership positions in the past two years.

Briggs & Stratton plans Glendale warehouse
Wauwatosa-based Briggs & Stratton Corp. plans to open a warehouse and distribution facility in Glendale.

The international small engine manufacturer’s warehouse would be located at 4353 N. Richards St. The lease proposal was recently approved by the Glendale Plan Commission.

The 220,000-square-foot multi-tenant industrial space was formerly occupied by Fashion Angels Enterprises Inc. until that company moved to the Third Ward in 2013. It was then purchased by Phoenix Broadway LLC, part of Milwaukee-based Phoenix Investors, and renovated in 2013 and 2014.

Briggs makes air-cooled gas engines for outdoor power equipment, including lawnmowers. Its worldwide distribution center is in Menomonee Falls.

Jason Industries names new CFO
Milwaukee-based Jason Industries Inc. has named Sarah Sutton chief financial officer. Sutton replaces Stephen Cripe, who will retire from Jason by mutual agreement, but will remain on the company’s board through May 31. She will report to David Westgate, chief executive officer.

Sutton, 43, has served as vice president, financial planning and analysis at Beloit-based motor and power product manufacturer Regal Beloit Corp. since 2011. She previously served as chief financial officer of Milwaukee-based A.O. Smith Corp.’s Electrical Products Company, which makes electric motors for residential and commercial use, from 2002 until the division was acquired by Regal Beloit in 2011.

Sutton is a certified public accountant, and began her career at KPMG LLP. She holds a bachelor’s in administration, with an accounting concentration, from California State University, San Bernardino, and an executive MBA from Northwestern University.

Jason is the parent company of a global family of manufacturing firms, including Milwaukee’s Milsco, that has 4,400 employees in 13 countries.

Smithfield Foods breaks ground on new bacon plant in Cudahy
Smithfield Foods Inc. recently broke ground on a new $12 million bacon slicing plant at its Patrick Cudahy campus in Cudahy.

The plant is expected to be fully operational by December. The new 17,000-square-foot plant will include four slicing lines that will increase Smithfield Foods’ bacon capacity by approximately 10 million pounds. It will be built in the same area that was destroyed by a fire in July 2009.

“We are very excited about our new facility because it will enhance our competitiveness and help to secure the future of our bacon business and the jobs associated with it,” said Daniel Kapella, president of Patrick Cudahy, Smithfield Foods Packaged Meats Division.

Initially, the new plant will not require additional employment.

“Smithfield Foods’ new plant in Cudahy represents not only a significant investment in our community, but also emphasizes the company’s ongoing commitment to our economic development,” said Cudahy Mayor John Hohenfeldt.

Smithfield Foods is a $15 billion global food company and the world’s largest pork processor and hog producer.

Harley leads Wisconsin employers on Forbes list
Fourteen Wisconsin-based companies are among the 500 firms honored as “America’s Best Employers” for 2015 by Forbes magazine.

In partnership with Statista.com, Forbes asked more than 20,000 American workers at large U.S. companies, nonprofits, government agencies and U.S. divisions of multinational firms a simple question: “On a scale of 0-10, how likely would you be to recommend your employer to someone else?”

The top-ranked Wisconsin company was Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson Inc., which ranked 10th on the list. Other southeastern Wisconsin-based manufacturers on the list included: Milwaukee-based Highfield Manufacturing (177th); Glendale-based Johnson Controls Inc. (219th); Milwaukee-based Rockwell Automation Inc. (240th); and Sussex-based Quad/Graphics Inc. (456th).

The top three companies on the national list were Google, Costco Wholesale and Marathon Petroleum.

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