WSJ: A Tale of Manufacturing Revival in Wisconsin

By July 18, 2008Economy, Energy, Trade

Another solid, informative and entertaining bit of reporting by the Wall Street Journal’s manufacturing reporter, Timothy Aeppel, on the front page today, “Export Boom Fuels Factory Town’s Revival.”

MANITOWOC, Wis. — This is a town manufacturing once deserted — and is now reviving.

On a blustery January afternoon in 2003, nearly 900 workers at the town’s second-largest manufacturer, a cookware factory, switched off their machines and were told the company was moving operations to Mexico.

Today, many of those workers are back at the same plant making pots and pans for new bosses. At a factory next door, workers are churning out energy-efficient industrial light fixtures. Across town, one company is using a former shipyard to produce 250-foot-tall steel towers used for wind turbines.

Sons and daughters who had abandoned the town are returning with business degrees and breathing new life into old factories. Among them is Tim Martinez, who left Manitowoc to study economics and business in Milwaukee. He bought the pots-and-pans plant, reopened the aluminum foundry and later brought in Brazilian cookware maker Tramontina to restart the assembly lines.

“America got tired of manufacturing,” Mr. Martinez says. “But it remains a great way to make money.”

A rugged cadre of producers like these in Manitowoc have survived a decades-long shakeout of American manufacturing — and are now leading a largely overlooked revival.

The town is, of course, known for the world-leading crane manufacturer, Manitowoc Company.

Leave a Reply