For close to 30 years, the Manufacturing Outreach Center at UW-Stout has been laser-focused on supporting manufacturing in northwestern Wisconsin.
On March 8, the center’s work and mission were recognized with a Regional Impact award from Momentum West, which promotes economic development in the region. The honor was presented along with other awards at Momentum West’s annual meeting, which was held at UW-Stout’s Memorial Student Center.
“We are honored to accept this Regional Impact award. Strong manufacturing is good for the region, and the MOC prides itself in helping our clients succeed,” said Aaron Bialzik, MOC director.
The MOC is one of two centers in Wisconsin affiliated with the National Institute of Standards and Technology/Manufacturing Extension Partnership — NIST/ MEP — national network. The centers deliver comprehensive, proven solutions to small and medium manufacturers through consulting, training and workforce development.
“The resources offered to manufacturers by the MOC are invaluable in terms of elevating their operational efficiency and expanding their markets,” said Steve Jahn, Momentum West executive director. “We are fortunate to have this resource in our own backyard, and their continued partnership with the region’s business and industry will continue to be a huge asset.”
The MOC serves 33 counties in northwestern and west-central Wisconsin. Along with nine field staff, it accesses university resources, including expertise in operations and management, plastics engineering, packaging, prototyping, advanced manufacturing and smart automation.
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“Since 1994 the MOC, operating through the Discovery Center, has been a proud member of the UW-Stout community, providing solutions to manufacturers and fostering regional partnerships to advance economic development,” Bialzik said. “The Stout MOC provides technical assistance by working with our NIST/MEP national network and connecting the resources at UW-Stout to take on any manufacturing challenges in northwestern Wisconsin.”
In 2022, MOC clients reported to NIST/MEP that the direct impacts of the services they received included:
- $64.7 million in new and retained sales
- $29.8 million in total investment (employees, plants, technology)
- $8.2 million in cost savings
- 648 jobs created or retained.
One company that benefited recently from MOC expertise is Croix Valley Foods of Hudson. In spring 2022, owners Lu and Damon Holter went through the MOC’s ExporTech™ program to help accelerate export sales of their sauces and seasoning blends.
ExporTech™, jointly offered by the NIST/MEP and the U.S. Commercial Service of the U.S. Department of Commerce, applies a structured export strategy development process. It is the only national program where each company develops a written export plan vetted by a panel of experts.
“We enjoyed the class, and it has had a significant impact on our exporting capabilities,” Lu Holter said. “The outreach center gave us the contacts and skills we needed to increase our confidence in the exporting process, which has lit a fire in our organization.
“We have increased our exports to Europe, secured distribution in Chile and secured multiple distributors throughout Mexico. Exporting has become one of the main focuses of our company moving forward, thanks primarily to the ExporTech™ class and the work of the UW-Stout Manufacturing Outreach Center program,” she added.
She credited ExporTech™ with helping Croix Valley Foods win the Governor’s Export Achievement Award in 2022.
The MOC also recently supported Genesis Industries of Elmwood. Genesis, a plastics injection molding company, needed to align operations with sales, product development and customer demand to improve overall performance and reduce waste.
The MOC helped with a business operating system, leadership development, employee Lean manufacturing training and warehouse layout improvements. As a result, sales increased 5% over two years, 25 jobs were saved and 30 jobs were created.
MOC clients report an average economic impact of $147 for every dollar invested.
The MOC website has a list of upcoming events and training sessions, including a monthly webinar.
Award photo full caption
From left at the Momentum West event at UW-Stout: Steve Jahn, executive director of Momentum West; Heidi Rabeneck, MOC Outreach manager; Tamara Brantmeier, UW-Stout associate vice chancellor; Missy Hughes, secretary and CEO of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation; and Rob Kreibich, Momentum West Board Chair and New Richmond Chamber of Commerce CEO.