Field Update: AAM on the Road in Illinois and Wisconsin

Oct 28 2014 |

Staffers talk about AAM’s work and the importance of women in manufacturing.

Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) field coordinators Meghan Hasse and Mike Mitchell met with Made in America leaders and supporters earlier this month at events in Illinois and Wisconsin. The pair share details from their journeys below.

From Mike: October is Manufacturing Month in Illinois, and to celebrate I joined my colleague Meghan Hasse at the Made in Elk Grove Manufacturing & Technology Expo, which kicked off on Oct. 21. An annual event hosted by the Village of Elk Grove, the expo provides original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and others an opportunity to “connect, collaborate, and cultivate relationships” with local manufacturers.

Field coordinators Meghan Hasse and Mike Mitchell meet with Rep. Tammy Duckworth at the recent Made in Elk Grove Manufacturing & Technology Expo.

Originally planned in the 1950s, Elk Grove Village has grown to the largest consolidated business park in the United States, encompassing 5 square miles and more than 62 million square feet of industrial inventory. More than $50 million has been reinvested back into park during the past 10 years. It is home to more than 3,600 businesses, with 40 percent of them being manufacturers. Hundreds of businesses operate in the village, including companies serving the aerospace, automotive, computer technology, medical instruments, foods processing and alternative energy industries.

Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) attended the conference, alongside 96 exhibitors and 1,035 attendees. Meghan and I chatted with exhibitors, manufacturers and members of the local community, sharing information about AAM’s work and ways we can strengthen manufacturing, create jobs and grow the economy.

From Meghan: Female leaders in manufacturing, government, and education were among those who came together last week for Rosie Revisited: Women and Manufacturing in the 21st Century conference in Madison, Wis.

Organized by the Women’s Council of Wisconsin and Foley and Lardner LLP, the event featured keynote speakers Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch.  I had the honor of hosting a roundtable titled, “Women and Consumer Power: Creating Manufacturing Jobs with Your Wallet,” which looked at ways to support American manufacturing by purchasing American-made products. If every American spent $64 a year on American-made goods, 200,000 new jobs would be created — something to keep in mind with the holiday season approaching! 

Morna Foy, president of the Wisconsin Technical College system, also spoke at the conference about the importance of role models in manufacturing. Only 10 percent of the students in a technical program related to manufacturing are women, Foy said, adding: “That is not enough!”

While 95 percent of Wisconsin’s exports are manufactured goods, only 16 percent of the Wisconsin workforce is in manufacturing.  According to Morna, $53,000 is the average pay for a manufacturing worker in Wisconsin — meaning that manufacturing has better pay and benefits that other jobs in other sector. 

The conference also featured a panel of Women in Food and Beverage Manufacturing. Lauren Schultz, owner of Purple Door Ice Cream, talked about the help she received from the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative and Fund Milwaukee to help her start-up company. Maureen Easton, founder of Alt Brew, spoke about sourcing locally all ingredients for her gluten-free beer. 

Meanwhile, Gail Ambrosius, founder of Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier, reflected on her mostly women staff and their positive attitude.  She also talked about her trips to South America to visit the farmers who grow the cocoa she buys.  Ambrosius works to ensure that the farmers and their families earn a living wage or better so they can educate their children, she noted.

Daphne Jones, President of Malone’s Fine Sausage, also says her company sources within the United States and Midwest when possible. Most of the meat comes from a plant right here in Middleton, Wis. 

As Senator Baldwin put it: “There’s a reason the state is known for its cheese, beer, and brats. Wisconsinites are good at making them.”