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Wisconsin manufacturers resilient through pandemic challenges

Wisconsin manufacturers have been faced with extraordinary challenges over the past 18 months stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Through it all, a large portion of Wisconsin’s industrial firms have shown remarkable resiliency and have not only survived through the daunting environment but are thriving due in large part to the implementation of essential strategic initiatives and intelligent, quick decision making.

Manufacturers are the backbone of the state’s economy and remain a source of family supporting jobs, making it vitally important that the sector have enduring success.

Throughout the pandemic, WMEP Manufacturing Solutions has been keeping a close eye on the state’s manufacturers, first through a series of COVID/Economic Crisis Manufacturer Pulse Surveys, which assessed how companies in the industrial sector responded to COVID-19 at its peak and the corresponding economic crisis that threatened the very survival of many businesses.

In all, WMEP conducted five surveys, starting in March 2020, and continuing into earlier part of this year. Together the surveys told a great story of perseverance by Wisconsin Manufacturers.  In the beginning of the crisis there was a lot of uncertainty and negative business impact.  Towards the middle, manufacturers while still struggling, were figuring out how to make the best of it and move forward, and in our last surveys in February of this year, their outlook and optimism for the future returned to pre-COVID levels.

Now, the focus shifts to the 2021 Wisconsin Manufacturing Report™, a new, comprehensive, annual report that will gauge Wisconsin manufacturing executives’ perceptions of the state of their business and their outlook on manufacturing while also identifying and exploring key issues affecting their operations and employees.

Pollster Rob Autry of Charleston, South Carolina-based Meeting Street Research conducted telephone interviews with 400 manufacturing executives, representing a geographically proportional cross-section of Wisconsin. Five focus groups comprised of manufacturing executives from across the state complemented the research. The Wisconsin Center for Manufacturing & Productivity commissioned this study in collaboration with WMEP Manufacturing Solutions and the University of Wisconsin-Stout Manufacturing Outreach Center.

“This report is the first of its kind in Wisconsin and is designed to provide a comprehensive picture of the challenges and opportunities facing Wisconsin manufacturers.”  WCMP Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Buckley Brinkman said.

The survey is being conducted knowing that the manufacturing sector will play an important role in the continuing economic rebound.

“Manufacturing remains vital to Wisconsin’s success and will be important in leading the ongoing recovery of our economy,” WMEP Manufacturing Solutions Executive Director and CEO Tim Wiora said.

The initial 2021 Wisconsin Manufacturing Report readouts will take place on Oct. 26th at the Ingleside Hotel in Pewaukee, and on Oct. 27th at the University of Wisconsin-Stout in Menomonie. The report is expected to serve as a key asset to manufacturing industry stakeholders throughout Wisconsin.

The initial report is sponsored by First Business Bank.

“Manufacturing is core to the economic vitality of Wisconsin and a significant source of incredible careers for its citizens,” said Tom Dott, senior vice president of commercial banking at First Business Bank.

The survey is expected to provide an array of strategic benefits.

“The insight gained by talking directly with manufacturing leaders will provide a wonderful opportunity for economic influencers throughout the state to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges facing the industry as well as create an awareness of the opportunities that exist in this segment of our state’s economy,” Dott said.

To register for a readout of the report, go to