Manufacturing Awareness for Door County’s Largest Industry
Wisconsin celebrates October as Manufacturing Month, and what it looks like in Door County is about 300 students visiting a dozen businesses across the peninsula to learn about the career opportunities that are available right here at home.
The organization for the October 27 manufacturing tour is the Door County Economic Development Corporation (DCEDC).
“Our biggest thing is to raise awareness,” said Korey Mallien, director of marketing and communications for DCEDC. “Most of our businesses are struggling to attract and retain their workforce. A big part of that is giving our school districts and the people here the opportunity to know that there are many great, high-paying jobs they can make a great career out of and stay here in Door County.
Manufacturing Month is not meant to elevate one industry above another – “the whole ecosystem is important”, said Michelle Lawrie, executive director of the DCEDC – but the manufacturing sector, despite its size, moves more silently and less visibly than others. The tour aims to pull back the curtain and expose young people to the wide range of career paths in the industry, whether working in the field or in marketing, sales, accounting or human resources.
The DCEDC started these tours in 2017. COVID-19 shut them down in 2020, and this year is the first they’re back in full force.
“This year, we’re excited because it’s not just the four mainland schools, but Washington Island is bringing its high school students,” Mallien said. “And Algoma found out what we were doing, and so they’re bringing in about 50 students from their sophomore class.”
In total, around 300 students are expected to participate by visiting at least 12 companies – and more could still sign up.
The goal is to showcase the diversity of the size and type of manufacturers that exist in Door County – from small to large, from wineries and coffee roasters to industrial plastics and shipbuilding.
“Even a microbrewery is considered a manufacturer,” Mallien said.
Washington Island sends 10th and 11th graders because the district is trying to prepare students for career paths, and those students are at an age where they’re starting to think about their future, said Timothy Verboomen, principal of Washington Island and program director. .
In addition to the local manufacturing tour day, island students participated in an educational fair at St. Norbert College and will visit a Kaukauna business to learn about careers in architecture, engineering and general construction.
“Our hope is that some of our students can see their future in these opportunities and learn more about the training or schooling needed to pursue them,” Verboomen said.
The manufacturing tour will take place on October 27. Get more details by calling the DCEDC at 920.743.3113.
Contribution of manufacturing to local GDP
A “manufacturer” is a person or company that manufactures goods for sale. This explains the variety of types of makers, whether it’s making cheese or building ships.
There are 65 manufacturers throughout Door County, according to the industry snapshot provided by JobsEQ, a software tool the DCEDC uses to obtain timely data on the local workforce and employers. Combined, Peninsula manufacturers employed 2,206 people in the first quarter of this year, or 14.7% of total employment in the county.
That number is down 50 jobs over the past year, but that’s not because the jobs aren’t available, Lawrie said.
“They certainly can’t hire the people they need,” she said.
The number of people that manufacturing employs is significant – only Door County’s service industry has a slightly larger number of employees. But the average salary of a manufacturing employee is 25% higher than the average salary of all other employees: $54,989 annually versus $40,484.
Manufacturing also contributes the highest amount of any industrial sector to Door County’s gross domestic product (GDP) of $1.392 billion: $246 million, or 17.7% of the total. GDP is the total value of goods produced and services provided, and it is an important indicator of the strength of the industry. For that reason alone, Manufacturing Month is worth celebrating, Lawrie said.
“It’s a huge chunk of GDP, and if it were to drop significantly, it would lead to a huge drop in GDP,” she said.
A manufacturing tour for the month of manufacturing
About 300 students from six area school districts — Algoma, Gibraltar, Sebastopol, Sturgeon Bay, Southern Door and Washington Island — will visit 12 makers on Oct. 27 as part of Door County Crafting Month. Grouped in clusters, students will visit from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. a small, medium and large company among the following: Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding, WireTech, Key Industrial Plastics, Hatco, Therma-Tron-X, Cadence, NEW Industries, Pro Products, Door County Candle Company, Marine Travelift, ExacTech and Door County Coffee & Tea.