By Dan Polley
MILWAUKEE – Gov. Jim Doyle announced initiatives today to retain a manufacturing workforce to keep Wisconsin among the leaders in the industry.
“To me, manufacturing is the heart of this state. We make things in Wisconsin. We make good things in Wisconsin,” Doyle said to a crowd of about 800 small- and medium-sized business owners and employees at the annual Manufacturing Matters conference.
He said he would provide for $2 million to $8 million for specific grants between manufacturers and technical colleges to train existing and new workers. Doyle also announced plans to form the Governor’s Manufacturers Advisory Group, which would look into modernization of manufacturing sector and affordable health care for manufacturing workers.
He also wants to double the funding for the youth apprenticeship program, which would help train potential workers and assist in skills certification programs.
Doyle said one of the reasons Wisconsin is a leader in manufacturing is because of the workforce. He said workers value hard work and work to achieve that goal.
“It’s in Wisconsin that they have the best, hardest working people,” Doyle said about GE, which had employees in all 50 states.
Doyle said Wisconsin had $17.1 billion in exports in 2006 and in the last four years, the state’s exports have increased by 50 percent. He said the state’s exports increased in that time at twice the rate of the national average.
“Not only has Wisconsin’s past been manufacturing, but Wisconsin’s future will be manufacturing as well,” Doyle said.
He also said he will go on the biggest trade mission by a Wisconsin governor in September, when he plans to visit Japan and China.
Doyle announced the plans at the 10th Annual Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership Manufacturing Matters conference in Milwaukee. The Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership hosts the annual event.
Also at the conference, afternoon keynote speaker Steven S. Little, business growth expert and author of “The 7 Irrefutable Rules of Small Business Growth,” said employers should be looking toward “sustained and profitable growth.”
He said employers need to put in time, money and effort in order to achieve that type of growth.
Little said his seven rules are a sense of purpose, outstanding market intelligence, effective growth planning, customer-driven processes, power of technology, finding and keeping the best and the brightest, and seeing the future.
“Wealth accumulation is never a sense of purpose for a growth organization,” Little said.
He said effective growth planning is the best predictor for whether a company will continue to grow. He said that planning includes three things: a written plan, a well-communicated plan and a plan that is updated frequently.
Little said the power of technology is particularly important. “How you put the tools of your time to work matters,” he said. “Don’t let your systems make you stupid.”
Little said his sixth rule — finding and keeping the best and the brightest — is the most important. “The single most important thing an employer can do is finding and keeping the best and the brightest (employees),” he said.
But Little also warned against continuing with past business practices. He said Latinos continue to grow and that Wisconsin is among the leaders in the country in terms of its growing Latino population. He said the make up of attendees should reflect that, but it didn’t.
He also said that China is a big threat to small-and medium-sized businesses.
“How you choose to play the China card in the manufacturing world matters,” he said. “It’s an economic imperative that we do business with people who don’t look like us, talk like us or think like us because there’s not enough of us to do business with anymore,” he said to the predominantly white and male crowd.