WMEP, Dept. of Commerce: Announce joint venture to drive manufacturing export growth

Exports a Growth Opportunity, but Many Firms Remain on the Sidelines

MADISON, Wis. – The Wisconsin Department of Commerce and the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership (WMEP) today announced a joint venture to ramp up the number of state manufacturers that export their goods and services.

“There are tremendous opportunities in international trade for Wisconsin manufacturers,” said Commerce Secretary Richard J. Leinenkugel. “By working with WMEP, an organization with a proven track record of helping manufacturers compete and win, we can reach more state manufacturers who may not know of the great potential that exporting holds.”

Under the plan, WMEP and the Department of Commerce will combine their resources and expertise to help small and midsize manufacturers assess and develop their export potential. The initiative will accelerate the delivery of Department of Commerce export services to WMEP’s large network of client firms and other manufacturers across Wisconsin. The effort will target manufacturers with outreach that includes personal contacts to manufacturers, public workshops and other communications aimed at building awareness, knowledge and capabilities.

“Demand for manufactured goods is rising more sharply around the world than within the U.S., creating new opportunities for Wisconsin manufacturers to tap international markets,” said Michael Klonsinski, WMEP’s executive director. “The success of our manufacturing economy depends on our ability to adapt to a global marketplace.”

Exports not only fuel top and bottom-line growth in times of rising global demand, but also drive revenues during periods of weak economic activity in the U.S. Many state manufacturers who sell into global markets weathered the recession better than those that depend entirely on domestic demand, Klonsinski notes.

Though Wisconsin exports have been on a steady upward climb in recent years, many manufacturers remain on the sidelines, according to a 2008 study. The Wisconsin Next Generation Manufacturing Study revealed that more than half – 60 percent – of more than 500 manufacturers surveyed said they were making “little or no progress” toward becoming a world-class global player. Only 4 percent of state respondents ranked themselves world-class.

Wisconsin exports increased by 9.2 percent to $20.6 billion in 2008, making Wisconsin the 18th-largest exporting state, according to the Department of Commerce. Export-supported jobs linked to manufacturing account for an estimated 6.8 percent of Wisconsin’s private-sector employment, according to the Office of Trade and Industry Information in the U.S. Department of Commerce. More than one-sixth (18.4 percent) of all manufacturing workers in Wisconsin depend on exports for their jobs, according to the latest data (2006).

Global engagement is a critical element of Next Generation Manufacturing, a framework of success attributes essential for growth and profitability now and in the future, Klonsinski said. The other attributes are customer-focused innovation, systemic continuous improvement, advanced talent management, extended enterprise management and sustainable product and process development.


The Commerce Bureau of Export Development offers a wide range of services to assist companies, whether they are new to exporting or seasoned professionals. Assistance is available for minimal or no cost.

Export development managers around the state are available to offer guidance on the export process and discuss strategies for new or expanding markets. Services include market research; agent/distributor searches; client/end user searches; buyers’ and trade missions; trade show grants; export documentation and certificates; and identification of lawyers, translators and other service providers. The bureau can also help manufacturers with credit checks and customs, labeling and regulatory certification. For more information, visit


WMEP is a private, nonprofit consulting organization committed to the growth and success of Wisconsin manufacturers. WMEP is a leader in bringing Next Generation Manufacturing best practices to Wisconsin firms to help them achieve world-class performance through innovation and transformation. During the past five years, WMEP-assisted manufacturers reported economic impact of $977 million with 7,965 jobs created/retained. WMEP receives financial support from the Wisconsin Department of Commerce, and partners with many public and private organizations to serve Wisconsin manufacturers. For more information, visit or call 1-877-856-8588.


Wisconsin Department of Commerce:

Tony Hozeny, 608.267.9661, [email protected].


Linda Abbott, 608.826.6215, [email protected]