Southeastern Wisconsin is an innovation powerhouse that is helping to set the standards in finance, automation, medical imaging, software, green technology and advanced manufacturing. The metro area is home to 13 Fortune 1000 companies, which is high for a region its size, and has a healthy balance of long-time manufacturing icons thriving alongside next-generation firms.
There are many reasons Forbes magazine has ranked Milwaukee one of the top 10 communities for young professionals. Milwaukee's comparatively easy lifestyle, including parking availability, low living costs and relatively easy access to the city's power brokers and other "people in the know," helps to attract young professionals and keep them in the area. It’s a big city that’s easy to get around. It has one of the lowest commute times of major urban areas and is considered one of the more walkable cities in the country.
The region is also home to companies that care for their employees. Milwaukee has one of the nation's highest concentrations of best companies to work for per capita, according to the Great Places to Work Institute.
A Global Center for Innovation
Milwaukee has been a center of commerce since the Potawatomi Indians first settled along the shores of the Menomonee River and Lake Michigan hundreds of years ago. It was a leading Great Lakes port in the 1800s, the "Beer Capital of the World" and the "Toolbox of America" in the 1900s, and is now a global center for advanced manufacturing, electronic commerce, financial services, food and beverage producers, printing and green technologies. With the addition of Foxconn's advanced research and production facility and resulting spin-off industries, southeastern Wisconsin will maintain its reputation for innovation well into the 21st Century.
The region also benefits from a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem with organizations devoted to helping start-ups, including BizStarts, MiKE, Gener8tor, and Scale Up Milwaukee. Two prominent organizations – Advocate Aurora Health and Northwestern Mutual – have also created venture capital funds to invest in local start-ups. These efforts – combined with the city's entrepreneurial spirit – have placed Milwaukee among the top 30 cities as a hub for startups.
Setting the Pace in Advanced Manufacturing
Manufacturing remains a very important engine for the region's economy. Fifteen percent of the workforce is employed by manufacturers, well above the 9 percent average nationally. The region leads the nation in the production of industrial controls, steel foundry parts, engines and mining machinery. It also leads the nation in the production of medical diagnostic equipment thanks to GE Healthcare, a global leader in medical imaging and information technologies, patient monitoring systems and health care services, which employs nearly 6,000 people at multiple facilities in the region.
The region is also home to Rockwell Automation and Johnson Controls, global leaders in industrial and building control systems; Briggs & Stratton, a leading small-engine manufacturer; Harley-Davidson, the legendary motorcycle manufacturer; and MillerCoors.
A Fast-Growing Service Sector
The service sector has been the fastest-growing segment of the regional economy. Health care and social assistance, retail trade, hospitality and food services, and finance/insurance are among the largest service-sector segments in the region. Five Milwaukee-area service companies are ranked as Fortune 500 companies: ManpowerGroup, Northwestern Mutual, and WEC Energy Group (Milwaukee), Kohl’s Corp. (Menomonee Falls) and Fiserv (Brookfield). Milwaukee is also home to the Mortgage Guaranty Insurance Corp. (MGIC), which is the nation's leading provider of private mortgage insurance. Several major national financial institutions have a major presence in the area, as do many Wisconsin-based and regional banks.
Health care is a major service employer. Southeastern Wisconsin is home to major operations for two of the nation's largest integrated healthcare systems – Advocate Aurora Health and Ascension. The region's other major health care providers are Children’s Hospital, Froedtert & Medical College of Wisconsin and ProHealth Care.
Advanced Medical Research
Southeastern Wisconsin is a leader in health care quality and research. Medical College of Wisconsin scientists lead biomedical and population health advancements through laboratory research, clinical trials and community-engaged research. Its faculty researchers conduct 2,000 studies annually with more than $144 million in government and private funding. The Blood Center of Wisconsin and its affiliate, the Blood Research Institute, play major roles in research regarding immunobiology, transfusion medicine and stem cell biology.
During the past 15 years, Milwaukee has evolved into a major center for electronic commerce. Two of the world's largest data processing firms have significant operations in southeastern Wisconsin. Brookfield-based Fiserv is a leading data processing provider for financial institutions serving more than 10,000 financial institutions in more than 90 countries. FIS, the world's largest technology solution provider, employs more than 3,000 people in the region. The Milwaukee Region is known for its strong supply-chain services. Several large software firms specializing in logistics. It is also home to other specialty technology firms, including Astronautics Corp. of America, an international provider of flight-critical software and instruments.
Food & Beverage Business
Wisconsin is home to nearly 1,200 food and beverage manufacturers, ranking fifth in the nation and employing more than 67,000 people. One out of nine jobs in the state are related to food – from farm to factory to fork. The state ranks first nationally in cheese, second in sausage and third in beer production. Southeastern Wisconsin accounts for the largest concentration of food and beverage manufacturers in the state with more than 250 companies employing nearly 15,000 people.
Southeastern Wisconsin has become a nationally recognized hub for green technologies. Johnson Controls is significantly expanding its research into next-generation batteries and energy-efficient buildings. The Water Council is strengthening the infrastructure needed to increase research into the world’s freshwater challenges and potential solutions, as well as to support the region's many water technology companies. Rockwell Automation is actively involved in the development of the Internet of Things, which will increase efficiency and reduce energy consumption by improving communication between equipment and companies.
Printing & Design
Tens of thousands of people are employed in creative enterprises in the metropolitan region. Companies in the region employ more creatives as a percentage of total population than the national average. Two initiatives - MiKE, or Innovation in Milwaukee - and the Creative Alliance Milwaukee are working to grow the local creative industry.
Quad/Graphics, based in suburban Sussex, is one of the largest printing companies in the world, as well as a fully integrated marketer that produces magazines, special interest publications, journals, catalogs, localized retail inserts, direct mail pieces, in-store signage and high-end packaging.