I remember how hard it was to find a job during the Great Recession. Having graduated from college in 2008, that was just the time I was looking for my first full-time position.
For many businesses, keeping the doors open was a struggle. That was particularly pronounced in the manufacturing world. But the New North, an economic development organization covering 18 Wisconsin counties, had an idea about how to help area factories make it through.
Wisconsin has a long and proud manufacturing history– it’s second only to Indiana in terms of the percentage of employment tied to manufacturing. And the state’s factories had a longstanding ability to adapt to new industries and enter new markets, New North Senior Project Manager Connie Loden told me.
In 2008, wind energy was in the middle of a boom period. So the New North identified a number of local manufacturers that it thought would thrive in the wind industry, and brought them to AWEA’s annual WINDPOWER conference to meet other wind power players.
The idea worked. Connie told me a number of the businesses that attended decided to enter the wind market. It presented a strong growth opportunity at a time when there weren’t a lot of those around. And many of these stayed part of the wind power supply chain, where wind is booming again and their businesses are thriving. Today, Wisconsin has 26 factories that build wind-related parts.
Connie and the New North continue to see wind energy as a strong growth market full of potential for manufacturers. She emphasized the importance of diversification for manufacturers, and thinks wind has a big role to play in helping them keep business steady and profitable.