The Watertown Economic Development Corp. kicked off Manufacturing Month with a tour of Idle Free Systems in the corporation’s Business Incubator, located at 1101 Industrial Drive, along with a presentation to area business and community leaders.
The presentation featured speeches from state Sen. Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, Mayor Ron Krueger and Wisconsin Manufactures and Commerce President Kurt Bauer.
Executive Director of Watertown Economic Development Corporation Kim Erdmann said the Business Incubator opened in 1993 to support start up companies by providing a start up space.
“The incubators focus is on manufacturing because 24 percent of businesses and employment in Watertown is in manufacturing,” Erdmann said. “Manufacturing is very critical component of the vitality and health of the community.”
Fitzgerald said he has been watching the Business Incubator for many years and has seen many companies come and go.
“I have seen great successes where companies that outlive the size and space that is available to them put up new buildings and create more jobs which is great,” Fitzgerald said. “This is something that I think the state can partner with local economic development teams and we are very excited about this operation and many others to come in the future.”
Krueger also addressed the crowd of business leaders and told them his assignment was to explain how he assists manufacturing in Watertown.
“Well I’m from the government and I’m here to help you,” Krueger said. “Many of you would say ‘just stand back and get out of our way and let us work.’ I think that is often true, but what we have tried to do is to streamline our operations to get rid of a lot of the regulation so when new businesses come to us, keeping in mind we do have zoning laws and building codes, we to try and make that process as painless as possibly to make your projects go forward.”
Krueger added he wanted to thank the Watertown Unified School District, Madison College, the local manufacturing community and the Watertown Economic Development Corporation for working together to try and create new workers for the open jobs in manufacturing.
Watertown High School Technical education teacher Jesse Domer spoke to the crowd about the facilities and programs the high school offers its students. Domer also thanked the manufacturers in town who have helped support the program.
Watertown High School seniors Mike Gaugert and John Brebeck also spoke about receiving first place prizes over the summer in the Automated Manufacturing Technology category at the national Skills USA competition.
Bauer said it is critical to Wisconsin success to find that new workforce to fill manufacturing jobs to help the companies continue to expand and grow.
“We have a problem right now, we have more jobs that are open than we have people to fill those positions. Nationwide its about 600,000 that are going unfilled and about 13,000 in Wisconsin,” Bauer said. “If we can fill those jobs it would be a huge multiply for our economy because every manufacturing job creates two other jobs in other sectors.”
He added he was delighted to see what is going on at Watertown High School and said it could be a model for other communities in Wisconsin.