As we kick off 2022, Waukesha County businesses are optimistic about growth. Despite the ongoing pandemic, a Waukesha County business survey from fall of 2021 reported that more than 79 percent of businesses plan to expand in the next three years. These results are on par with prior years, including 82 percent in 2019 and 76 percent in 2017.
Robust business growth and expansion took place throughout Waukesha County in 2021 and look to continue into the new year. The primary modes of planned growth for Waukesha County businesses in 2022 include expanding sales (74 percent), hiring additional employees (70 percent) and expanding product/ service offerings (52 percent).
Eaton redesigned its southeast Wisconsin footprint, consolidating three operations into one City of Waukesha location. The 233,000-square-foot expansion in 2021 was the result of the company’s $35 million long-term investment in the community. The expansion will enable Eaton to increase production of regulators and transformers and better meet the growing needs of customers in the utility markets.
“Eaton’s Waukesha roots date back to the late 1940s with the Rural Transformer and Equipment Company (RTE) and continue today with the investment in our Badger Drive facility. On behalf of the nearly 800 Eaton employees in Waukesha, we are passionate about being an integral part of the community,” said Jackie Pride, Eaton communications manager.
Menomonee Falls manufacturer Tailored Label Products broke ground in October on a new state-of-the-art facility, which will expand its current 55,000-square-foot facility to 82,000 square feet. Designed with lean manufacturing in mind, the new space is optimized for flexographic, screen and digital print production and will include a wellness and fitness facility, training locations and open space for continued growth.
While the COVID-19 pandemic stifled certain industries, there was significant growth among the business community in many areas in 2021. Just over 73 percent of businesses reported that sales grew in the past year, which is down only slightly from 78 percent in 2019. Optimistically, over 88 percent of businesses project sales to grow in the coming year.
Glenroy, a manufacturer of flexible packaging solutions in Menomonee Falls, doubled the size of its manufacturing footprint with an expansion that connected several buildings into a single larger building.
“Ultimately, our customers see value from these efficiencies and improvements, and our goal is to serve them even better. There are many benefits of the expansion, such as gaining much-needed space to add new equipment, which improved our manufacturing capabilities and capacity,” said Amy Jablonka Nelson, family owner and managing director of real estate for Glenroy.
Waukesha County businesses continue to be in a workforce expansion mode. Despite the pandemic, 85 percent of businesses plan to expand their workforce in the next three years, which is the same pace as the past six years. Hiring of individuals is expected at all levels, with 50 percent of businesses planning to add 1-9 employees, 40 percent planning to add 10 99 employees, and nine percent planning to add more than 100 employees.
“We’re happy that our growth provides additional career opportunities to the community, and we are working hard to be an employer of choice in the area. Menomonee Falls is our home. We considered many ways to expand and felt very strongly about staying right here and continuing to support all the stakeholders involved,” said Glenroy’s Jablonka Nelson.
Generac Power Systems, a leading global designer and manufacturer of energy technology solutions and other power products, recently recommitted to Wisconsin with a major expansion of its corporate operations into the City of Pewaukee. The company has invested more than $8 million to purchase and renovate a 75,000-square-foot office building off I-94. The new location, which houses approximately 300 employees, is now home to the company’s new Customer Contact Center, key sales and support groups, as well as portions of Generac’s marketing team.
“The combination of an aging power grid and extreme weather are resulting in more frequent and longer lasting power outages,” states Aaron Jagdfeld, president and CEO of Generac. “This, in turn, has created phenomenal demand and growth for Generac’s high-performing backup power systems. Our expansion in Waukesha County is allowing us to continue to grow Generac to serve our customers, partners and our people, as we work to meet the incredible market demand.”
A Great Place to Live, Work and Play
Waukesha County continues to rank well as a great place to live, work and play, demonstrated by growth throughout the county and not just limited to business. According to the survey, more than 90 percent of businesses reported Waukesha County as a desirable or somewhat desirable place to do business.
In Oconomowoc, the first phase of Wangard Partners’ complete re-imagining and revitalization of the historic property that was once home to the Olympia Hotel and Resort is underway with the Locklyn at Olympia Fields, a new luxury apartment development.
The Locklyn will bring 178 units to Oconomowoc as part of seven new Class-A apartment buildings, sitting on 10.5 acres and representing a nearly $40 million investment in the community.
“The Wangard team is very excited about the opportunities the Olympia Fields development provides to both residential and commercial tenants,” said Wangard President/COO Matt Moroney. “Our team took a blighted property and redesigned it to be a vibrant area with a mix of retail and residential, and the project design will accommodate a much larger residential development immediately to the west on the vacant 200+ acre golf course. This development will support many restaurants and commercial retailers that seek to locate in the vibrant community of Oconomowoc,” Moroney added.
In addition to growth at the business, municipal and housing level, many start-up companies continue to be created. In 2020, SMART SPACES launched as a new small business through collaboration with BSI. SMART SPACES, a BSI integration partner, delivers flexible spaces with technology capabilities built right in.
SMART SPACES President/CEO Victor Hernandez said that after one full year in business, the company has nearly doubled its number of associates to support the demand of technology driven design projects.
As the new year is now underway, Waukesha County is poised for continued growth and expansion. And the momentum is on track to carry through into the years ahead as well.
What will it take to continue driving business growth in Waukesha County?
It’s clear our county’s greatest challenge remains a workforce shortage, which is exacerbated by an aging population and low population growth. This means we must continue to develop and retain the current workforce as well as employ new strategies to attract more people to our state. The Waukesha County Business Alliance is working with a variety of stakeholders to explore solutions to barriers around childcare, housing, training, transportation and more.
According to Judie Taylor, executive director for the Waukesha County Center for Growth, sectors such as advanced manufacturing, construction, health care and professional services are driver industries for our county and the region. While several large national and multi-national companies have operations in the county, the numerous middle market and second stage companies represent a particular growth opportunity and can be nurtured by connecting them to the right resources available at the local, county and state resources.
“Generac – now a huge economic driver in our county — was founded in the garage of engineer Robert Kern in 1959. It’s extremely gratifying to help the company continue to expand here and employ thousands of people,” said Taylor. “At the same time, we must nurture small and medium companies with the same level of care. You never know which one could be the next Generac!” •
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