Attract Manufacturing Business & Talent on a Regional Scale

Tim Sheehy, President of the MMAC

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With all the reshoring of manufacturing to the US, cities across the country are competing to be destinations for high-quality businesses and talent that will foster economic growth for their communities.

The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) is on such a mission, working to make Milwaukee a "globally competitive region that fosters high value employment to sustain a vibrant quality of life for all."

Tim Sheehy has led the MMAC as President for 31 years. Now more than ever, his focus to "think globally, act locally" is key to attracting and retaining the industry that is at the heart of the region: manufacturing.

With 300,000 people in southeast Wisconsin employed in the industry, the area is #2 in the country for a workforce in manufacturing (per capita). Today, Tim's focus is on ensuring the region can support manufacturing's demand for skilled talent, a reliable supply chain, and the resources to upskill and reskill the incumbent workforce as businesses invest in automation and Industry 4.0.

In this episode, we talk about the challenges and strategies for building and retaining a strong manufacturing region in 2023, how to engage education in the effort, and how to approach these workforce challenges from a broad, regional perspective.

3 Big Takeaways from this episode:

  1. Regions should double down on what makes them great: Manufacturing is in Milwaukee's DNA. While the region is broadening its identity as a destination for tech, sports and leisure, the heart of Milwaukee will always be manufacturing. Tim gives advice to regions looking to attract more businesses and talent in manufacturing and industrial sectors - and it centers around sticking with what you're best at. He also shares how these efforts have brought large employers like Haribo to the region.
  2. Students can't be what they can't see: If we want to inspire students toward skilled careers and keep them in the region, we need to expose them to the opportunities and pathways while they're in the K-12 system. MMAC has partnered with organizations like Microsoft to provide hands-on technology programming that opens doors for these students. He also shares some upcoming projects involving nonprofits and industrial partners that will usher in new advanced manufacturing education in the region.
  3. Business - education partnerships thrive when expectations are set early on: Employers and educators need to be open and clear about their needs and goals at the outset of any strong partnership - this means establishing expectations early on. Education needs to know what's going on in the workforce, and employers need to understand what's being taught in the classroom. Most of all, these partnerships are about more than a half-day field trip. Career exposure and skill-based learning efforts must be mapped through the eyes of a student. Ask yourself: what will make a student's eyes light up? What will ignite interest? What will build excitement about the future?


To learn more about the MMAC, visit their website:

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