We know that Milwaukee’s manufacturing industry has changed greatly since the days when much of the big things in America were assembled here. The transformation of the Menomonee Valley and the 35th Street corridor are both testaments to that shift.
But one hold-out from those days has been the industry that builds mining equipment. Two major companies employed a substantial workforce to do that job. But more recently, that industry has seen its fortunes erode as well, with jobs eliminated outright or moved elsewhere.
Reporter Arthur Thomas wrote about the seismic changes in the earth moving industry for Milwaukee Biz Times recently, and notes that companies such as Joy Global Inc. and Caterpillar Inc. could no longer sustain such a high level of production.
According to Thomas, factors such as the decline of the coal industry and China's slowing production has completely changed the level of demand from Milwaukee manufacturers. "The bottom kind of fell out on them," he says.
Although no one could anticipate the level of drop off the industry has been fighting against since 2013, Thomas says that the companies are salvaging what they can while being realistic about the future.
"It increasingly makes sense for them to makes things where's it's going to be used, or closer to where it's going to be used," he explains. "They can make that stuff in China and move it to India a lot cheaper than they can to make it here, put it on a boat and get it all the way to China or India. So increasingly, it doesn’t make as much sense for them to make things here anymore."