Those who don’t know Northeast Wisconsin well might be surprised to learn about the outsized role the region has played in helping in the fight against COVID-19. For those of us who do know and love the New North, it’s confirmation of what we already knew: This is a special place that offers a powerful combination of resources, innovation and care.
The first weeks and months of the pandemic served up a punishing blow that was difficult to absorb for even the most resilient and positive among us. Seeing and reading the stories of companies and individuals stepping up to help in a time of adversity provided me a much-needed spark of hope and joy during the darkest days of the crisis. From manufacturers cranking out desperately needed hospital gowns, masks and sanitizing wipes to companies that developed new solutions in a matter of days to organizations that made generous monetary donations, Northeast Wisconsin businesses showed their true character.
Given all that, it was difficult to choose just a handful of companies to feature in this month’s cover story, “Answering the call,” beginning on page 8. I hope it will serve as a representation and tribute to the many manufacturers that have gone above and beyond these past several months. The common thread I heard from all the companies I spoke to was a desire to do their part and help people in the communities where they live and work. Care for people, not profits, has driven their actions, and that is something to celebrate.
While I suspect everyone hopes we are making our way toward a new normal, the pandemic’s effects continue to touch every aspect of life and business. In this issue’s education feature, MaryBeth Matzek looks at how programs that require hands-on learning are adapting to the new world. My global feature examines the outlook for trade and how businesses are managing global relations when travel is restricted. And don’t miss MaryBeth’s Plant News feature on Hoffmaster Group in Oshkosh. Its paper straw business is booming, and COVID-19 has meant many restaurants have turned to using more takeout boxes as well as disposable plates and flatware.
I won’t lie: Planning an event during a pandemic is no easy feat. Insight Publisher Brian Rasmussen doesn’t relish the task but does say it’s somehow fitting for the 10th anniversary of the Manufacturing First Expo & Conference, whose first outing came together in about a month and half. It was a massive undertaking, but just look how it’s grown and thrived. This year’s event is still coming together, but I can tell you the message of keynote speaker Daniel Burrus will be timely and relevant. The futurist, disruptive innovation expert and Milwaukee native promises to help deliver perspective and clarity during an uncertain time. We hope you will take part in the three big days of Manufacturing First Oct. 20-22, which will take place virtually in a format that will allow attendees to take in more content than ever before. Savor the summer, and I’ll “see” you then!