Wisconsin food makers in manufacturing mix

Wisconsin is renowned for making things. It is also known for making some great dairy products. Did you know that our fair state also makes a bunch of great things to eat and drink?

Shelley Jurewicz, executive director of Food and Beverage Wisconsin, an industry cluster consortium focused on the food and beverage industry in Wisconsin, said the state has close to 1,700 food, ingredient, and beverage manufacturers. Many of those businesses, about 66 percent, are operations with nine or fewer employees.

“There probably a lot more awareness around our agricultural prowess than the food manufacturing side of things,” she said. “Students largely understand the farm and the fork, but that that whole portion in the middle, I think, is a bit of a mystery to people.”

In 2012, food and beverage manufacturing accounted for $7.2 billion of total manufacturing in Wisconsin, placing it number two behind machinery, according to the National Association of Manufacturers.

Jurewicz said the organization is working to increase the visibility of the industry, help grow and sustain many of the smaller operations that make up the sector, and provide education and training for a future pool of workers.

“Just because there are jobs available in food and beverage doesn’t mean students are aware of them, or that families and parents are saying, ‘You should pursue a food and beverage career,’” she said. “How do we let parents know, how do we let the student population know these jobs exist and are exciting jobs?”

Jurewicz said industry jobs range from working on production floors to sales and marketing and human resources. Many of the jobs are rooted in science, technology engineering and mathematics – skills that carry over to food safety and production practices.

Nate Phelps, PostCrescent.com

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