Manufacture This

The blog of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

Manufacturers are leading the way to go green in Wisconsin.

Field coordinator Mike Mitchell and I joined business leaders, manufacturers and advocates at the Harley Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, Wis., last week for the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council’s (WSBC) 7th annual conference. Attendees exchanged ideas, experiences, and solutions with reducing their carbon footprint and increasing sustainability in day-to-day operations.

This was the first time Mike and I attended the conference, and we found it very engaging, educational and impressive. 

WSBC Executive Director Tom Eggert, the first professor to teach sustainability courses at the University of Wisconsin, kicked of the conference by sharing that a portion of each person’s registration fee would be used for carbon off-sets. 

But the big highlight of the event came when Harley Davidson President Matt Levatich rode into the conference to give his keynote speech on the company's first-ever electric motorcycle, known as Project LiveWire. The bike is so quiet we didn’t hear him coming — and let me tell you, it was pretty sharp looking.

Levatich, wearing jeans and a LiveWire T-shirt, didn’t look like your typical keynote speaker, either. “I would rather explain to a banker why I’m in jeans than a customer why I’m wearing a suit,” he said.

Not only did Levatich strike me as passionate about the company and his love for Harley Davidson, he also appeared to be the real deal.

Unfortunately, the electric motorcycle isn’t likely to be available to consumers anytime soon. The bike is an expensive prototype, with two fleets across the country giving out demo rides for Harley enthusiasts.  Harley needs improved technology to make it market ready. Customers want the cost lowered by 50 percent, and the bike, which currently goes 50 miles, has demand for 100 miles, Levatich explained.

Another highlight of the conference was the recognition of sustainable actions by businesses across Wisconsin through the WSBC’s Green Masters Program. Companies earn points for taking action toward sustainability, and advance through different levels, and the top 20 percent are recognized as Green Masters at the conference. More than 175 Wisconsin businesses are participating and working their way through the program, including manufacturers, breweries and hotels.  This year, 34 companies were awarded as Green Masters.

The Harley Davidson Museum.

The conference’s setting at the Harley Davidson Museum also showed off an impressive sustainability effort. The museum was built on top of six feet of ground-up concrete that was re-used from the Marquette Interchange renovation — concrete that would have otherwise gone straight to the landfill.  The beautiful, modern museum is a must-see for anyone visiting the area. I also suggest a stop at Lakefront Brewery — currently ranked as a Green Professional in the Green Masters program (and doing a mighty fine job)! 

Bikes. Beer. Milwaukee Proud!