Jobs, jobs, jobs. As political rhetoric intensifies in tough economic times, everybody’s talking about jobs and job creation.
A trip to the small Midwest state of Wisconsin might be instructive. It routinely finishes at or near the top in job creation, especially in the manufacturing sector.
That’s the part of the economy - automobiles, appliances, textiles, electronics - that has seen the steepest job losses.
But not in bustling Wisconsin, at least not to an alarming degree.
We’re not talking heavy industry or even the state’s famous cheesemaking. Rather, Wisconsin produces an endless assortment of products in little factories you see tucked among its green, manicured farms. Riding past, you may catch their names on a little sign, but have no clue what the places make.
They make things like the water jugs a delivery person hauls down our hall every few weeks. And not just the bottles, but also their pop-off tops, the metal cart that carries them, and the plastic cartons into which the bottles of water fit snugly.
Wisconsin has always been an industrious place. Beginning in 1854, Dells Mill gristmill in little Augusta, ground the wheat that fueled Wisconsin’s economy. It’s now a museum.
Curt Manufacturing in Eau Claire makes metal ball hitches for trailers. Great White Dental Lab in Lodi fashions enamel teeth called “crowns.” Universal Die & Stampings in Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin, makes battery caps.
And K & B Innovations in North Lake creates “Shrinky Dinks,” which are little plastic thingys that kids can color and then shrink in the oven.
And somebody, somewhere in the Badger State builds the vats and forms, and the big stirring paddles and conveyor belts without which there’d be no Wisconsin cheese.
We don’t pay much attention when these companies win an award, add workers, or come out with a new product.
But taken together, they’re a big part of the nation’s economic engine that people are always talking about.