When you ask Jeff Clark why he is so enthusiastic about running a manufacturing business in Sussex, he hardly knows where to begin.
“Sussex has been a great place for the company,” said Clark who is president and CEO of . “We’ve had dealings with the town administration and we have a good number of people that come out of the area that are in our workforce. It provides a good basis for our workforce from high skilled to professional levels. The community itself is receptive to manufacturing which is not always the case in communities.”
And there’s more. Government red tape? Not a problem in Sussex.
“The administration and the elected officials, everyone tries to be pro-business,” said Clark. “I’ve had no issues at all here but I think it just comes down to a good quality of life and good people around the community that make it a good place to have a business like ours... I just think it’s a good place to do business.”
I just think it’s a good place to do business.
Waukesha Metal Products began as a small tool and die shop in Waukesha back in 1971. The two men who started the business, Charlie Gieringer and Dick Mell, could never have dreamed how their enterprise, originally named Waukesha Tool and Stamping LLC, would grow. They moved the plant to Sussex in 1997 and Clark joined the company as general manager and COO in 2005.
Four years later, the company underwent more major changes. Gieringer and Mell sold the business to the current owners who also purchased another company, Parkview Metal Products in Lake Zurich, IL.
Since Parkview also did metal fabrication, a brand new name was in order to reflect all of the company’s capabilities. The Illinois operations were soon closed while a metal fabrication operation plant was opened in Grafton.
Today, Waukesha Metal Products is an international, full service provider of metal forming services including custom metal stampings, sheet metal fabrications, and in-house precision tooling.
The company has 120 employees including 87 people in Sussex and 33 in Grafton.
“What’s great about this business is we have good people, we have fun and what we enjoy the most is providing a best cost solution for our customer base,” said Clark. “We may not be the cheapest, but we definitely provide the best value, best cost alternative when you take in everything that a customer needs when purchasing metal formed parts. That’s how we built the business and we’ve grown it significantly, more than 60 percent, over the last three years.”
Waukesha Metal Products makes a very diversified line of products with 45 percent of the business in light vehicle and automotive, 10-12 percent in commercial vehicles and other interests in electrical controls, military and aerospace, dental and medical products. The company exports about half of what it makes to Mexico, Thailand, South Africa, China, Japan and Europe.
“Last year was nice for us and we were recognized in the Inc. 5000, the Future 50 and we won a productivity award,” said Clark. “Coming off the recession, we really hit a nice buildup. We grew during the recession, through acquisition and organically.”
This year, the company has been nominated for the Wisconsin Manufacturer of the Year Award by the Waukesha County Business Alliance with the winners to be announced February 23rd at the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee.
After 40 years of growth and success, Clark and his colleagues have their eyes firmly fixed on the future. As has always been the case, it starts with people.
“What’s critical for us, and what we see to stay successful, as that we’re working diligently to help develop our good connection with the Sussex school system and ,” said Clark. “We want to build that even more because we want to attract even more A students, those that want to go to college and those that don’t want to go to college. We want to attract them into our industry and, more importantly, into our business.
"Talent and innovation are going to be the limiting factors in US manufacturing and the US economy, in my estimation. We have to work together to develop pathways for these kids and make them aware that working in manufacturing is a good place.”