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Project Milwaukee: Innovation Through Acquisition

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Once upon a time, one of the key leaders in innovation in the Milwaukee area was Briggs & Stratton. The Wauwatosa-based manufacturer has been a national leader in building things with small engines, like lawn mowers. But the company ran into problems that many have faced over the last decade.

"They really had never looked better in 2005. As a retailer of home and garden products, they were really reaping a benefit from the housing surge and that housing bubble. When it popped, it started to bring Briggs & Stratton down with it," says Olivia Barrow, a Milwaukee Business Journal reporter.

Barrow wrote an article about the company, Wauwatosa production shift drives innovation for Briggs & Stratton.

Briggs & Stratton has since tried to diversify their product line by offering more equipment geared toward commercial interests, she says. The company has acquired several other companies that manufacture commercial equipment, like Allmand and Billy Goat Industries. 

The company has also invested its resources into recruiting young talent to their company by offering internships and other opportunities to young people in Milwaukee.

Retaining young innovators has been a problem for many companies in the Milwaukee-area, Barrow says, as many have left the area for other cities like Minneapolis and Chicago. 

"It's not about the weather clearly... They don't see the job opportunities, or the opportunity for innovation that might actually be here," she explains.