Milwaukee food, beverage cluster broadens scope statewide

Metro Milwaukee’s efforts to organize its smorgasbord of food-and-beverage industries into an economic growth strategy took a step in a new direction as the group decided to rename itself and encompass the entire state.

The expansion was natural, given that Wisconsin is known for beer, sausage and cheese, said Giacomo Fallucca, chief executive of Milwaukee-based Palermo’s Pizza and co-chairman of the Food and Beverage initiative. “We recognize that our cluster, while highly concentrated in the Milwaukee region, extends throughout Wisconsin,” Fallucca said.

“FaB Milwaukee” will now call itself “FaB Wisconsin,” it announced.

The economics of food looks like a sweet spot for the state. In a statement, the group said Wisconsin ranks fifth nationally for overall employment in food and beverage processing, with nearly 47,000 employed. “The Milwaukee region is home to the nation’s highest concentration of food, beverage and ingredient makers, more than 250, with talent exceeding 14,000 people,” it said.

The FaB idea grew out of efforts coordinated by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce and the seven-county Milwaukee 7 economic consortium to define regional clusters that have potential for further investment and jobs.

The formation of a statewide food cluster coincides with a national movement to grow and eat locally.The FaB website says: “We are the makers, bakers, brewers, canners, bottlers, roasters, operators, artisans, innovators, leaders, owners, managers, professionals, scientists, growers, distributors, grocers and restaurateurs that bring us, and the world, our food and drink.”

“Southeastern Wisconsin grew up at the intersection of industry and agriculture,” historian John Gurda wrote in an essay, “Eat, Drink and Be Prosperous,” which is posted on the FaB website.

John Schmid, Journal Sentinel

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