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Tech Innovation Drives Madison Manufacturing

Discover how the Madison region is home to more than 1,400 manufacturers that make products ranging from high-end kitchen appliances to sustainable, naturally occurring replacements for crude oil.

By Bill Lewis on May 13, 2016

Innovation-driven manufacturers are flourishing across the Madison Region, which turns out products to enhance the beauty and performance of our kitchens, provide life-sustaining medical technology, and replace crude oil with sustainable, naturally occurring resources.

The more than 1,400 manufacturers that call the Madison Region home are part of a vibrant sector that employs nearly 69,000 workers, about 13 percent of all non-farm employment in the region.

Producing everything from precision bicycles to agricultural equipment to emergency generators, these manufacturers all were attracted by a unique combination of attributes that make the region highly competitive and desirable for investment, including a skilled workforce with a long legacy of craftsmanship, excellent schools and universities and a high quality of life.

Sub-Zero Group, which manufactures sophisticated kitchen appliances, is investing $62 million to expand its facility in Fitchburg. The 400,000-squarefoot plant will manufacture dishwashers, says Chuck Verri, vice president of human resources for Sub-Zero Group. Sub-Zero Group has the opportunity to create more than 300 new jobs in the region in the next two to three years, as well as continue an “excellent relationship” with the Local 565 SMART, the Sheet Metal Workers International Association, the union that represents workers there, Verri says.

“We are always looking to improve as an organization in all facets of the business. We intend to accomplish this by continuing to incorporate the latest proven manufacturing and system technologies, as well as automation, where appropriate,” says Scott LaFleur, chief operations officer for Sub-Zero.

Dive Into The Talent Pool

Virent, which is replacing crude oil by creating the chemicals and fuels the world demands using a wide range of naturally occurring, renewable resources, is thriving in the region. The professionals the company recruits are eager to move to the region, says Chief Operating Officer Jeff Moore.

“It is a great place to raise a family and offers excellent quality of life,” he says. “With these strengths, the Madison Region attracts a very strong talent pool for technical businesses. One testament to that fact is that Virent has attracted talent from all over the country. The University of Wisconsin is also a very strong engineering school that produces great talent for area technical businesses. Combine all that with a strong work ethic and entrepreneurial culture, and it is a great community.”

Virent’s patented technology converts plant-based materials into a full range of products identical to those made from petroleum, including gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and chemicals for plastics and fibers. The products are drop-in replacements that enable use of existing logistics infrastructure without blending limitations.

In Sun Prairie, Thermal Spray Technologies (TST) announced an $11.5 million expansion in 2014 that is expected to add more than 200 jobs. The company manufactures coatings that are used in the aerospace, electronics, agriculture, medical, oil and gas, automotive, power generation, paper making, printing, food processing, and defense industries.

Tax Credits Succeed

The idea for TST grew out of a graduate research program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It was Wisconsin’s pro-business environment that helped keep the growing company in the state where it was founded.

“When deciding where to expand, Wisconsin’s Economic Development Tax Credits were a major factor in our decision to expand at our Sun Prairie location rather than somewhere else in the country,” says President Craig A. Smith. “With these credits, we have been able to find and train the talent on which we rely. And thanks in part to thecredits we have also been able to invest in the best of today’s equipment and technologies.”

When Pregl Services Inc. was looking for a location that could support its growth, it moved to a newly renovated facility in Janesville. The company previously was located in Illinois.

Pregl Services provides comprehensive aftermarket support to the thermal processing industry.

“We ultimately selected this Janesville property based on its ability to meet our current and future expansion needs, as well as its quick access to major highways and the small business assistance programs offered by Rock County Economic Development and the State of Wisconsin,” says Andrew Pregl, president and owner.

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