Insight on Business

July 2014

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12 N e w N o r t h , i N c . On the supply side Grant, New North to help defense suppliers diversify B y S e a n P. J o h n s o n 14 Mid-Year S arah Loch gets up each day with a single mission in mind: find jobs to keep her employees working. It's been a tough couple of years. When Aurora Manufacturing first opened its doors in 2000 in Berlin, it was as a specialty shop handling assembly and painting work for Oshkosh Corp., which was in the midst of several large military contracts. ere was so much work, even Aurora had to occasionally subcontract. With those contracts completed, and defense spending curbed, Loch is now trying to expand the markets Aurora serves in order to bring in work and grow the company's opportunities. "It has been a real struggle," says Loch, the operations manager for Aurora Manufacturing. "Nobody is letting go of anything. e whole immediate area is suffering." It's a challenge faced by perhaps hundreds of smaller companies that supplied parts and expertise to Oshkosh Corp. during the life of those major contracts. At the peak of the contracts, Oshkosh Corp. was working with an estimated 1,400 suppliers in Wisconsin. With no similar contracts on the horizon, those suppliers need to diversify and find new markets if they want to stay in business. "We need to be tapping into different commercial markets," Loch says. "We would never close the door to military contracts, but we also need to develop other markets." ere is help coming for companies such as Aurora. As 2013 drew to a close, the Department of Defense Office of Economic Assistance awarded an $837,000 grant to the East Central Regional Planning Commission to find ways to grow opportunities for those companies, making them less reliant on federal defense contracts. New North is one of the partners developing the plan, concentrating on supply chain mapping that can be used to demonstrate how other industries can tap into the capabilities of companies in the region. New North has created similar projects in the past such as Wisconsin Wind Works ( which highlighted the manufacturers in the region contributing components to that sector of the energy industry. e supply chain mapping is one of six projects that will be funded by the grant to cushion the blow of losing an estimated $91 million in earnings from the layoffs that accompanied the cutbacks following the completion of the contracts. e job reductions from defense cutbacks represent 1.25 percent of the workforce and nearly 4 percent of the manufacturing base in the five counties surrounding Oshkosh, Business Development "We need to be tapping into different commercial markets. We would never close the door to military contracts, but we also need to develop other markets." – Sarah Loch, operations manager for Aurora Manufacturing, Berlin c o u r t e s y o s h k o s h c o r p.

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