Jim: Hey gang. Welcome back to The Beat. Before we begin, I wanted to quickly remind you about our first Wisconsin Inno meet up: The Inno-troduction! This launch party will give you a chance to meet the Inno team in person, pitch us story ideas, share your thoughts on the state’s startup ecosystem, network with other tech folks, and more. Read more about the event here and register for free! We’re excited to see you May 9 at Ward4.
Alright, let’s dive in…
The Big One
A breakdown on the day’s biggest Inno story.
Katherine: Innovation is by no means exclusive to startups. Innovative technology can be found in companies large and small, old and new. It can even be found in a 44-year-old maker of industrial ovens. Jim, tell us more about Wisconsin Oven.
Jim: Wisconsin Oven, located in East Troy, manufactures large ovens that use a patented heating technology that has played a role in creating a wide range of products, from bedsprings to wrinkle-free shirts to cell phones. Founded in 1973, the company spent its early days providing ovens for printing press-users like Fuji, but as the rise of digital technology came along, Wisconsin Oven needed to evolve with the times.
Today the company sells its large industrial ovens—some as big as a football field—to mostly automotive and aerospace companies. In fact, the aerospace industry now makes up about 40 percent of Wisconsin Oven’s business and is growing fast, CEO David Strand said. Aerospace companies use Wisconsin Oven to cure rocket parts in order to meet the demands that are placed on vessels as they enter space. As the next generation of space travel begins, flights will be made possible by rockets that are processed by Wisconsin Oven, Strand said.
“The space travel industry is getting very competitive,” Strand told me. “We’re working with some of the largest players in that industry.”
The company has three patents filed related to its aerospace work, and three more in process.
Wisconsin Oven counts Boeing as a client, but Strand declined to name other aerospace customers, citing non-disclosure agreements. On the automotive side, the company’s customers include Ford and General Motors.
Companies use Wisconsin Oven for a wide range of applications including aluminum aging, composite curing, heat treating and powder coating. As both automotive and aerospace companies develop new, lighter-weight materials, Wisconsin Oven is used to cure parts.
Going forward, Strand expects aerospace to continue to be a major part of the company’s business as companies are ramping up efforts to get people into space.
Read More: How an Oven Maker in Wisconsin Is Helping Launch Rockets Into Space
Inside the people, companies and organizations making moves today.
Jim: Milwaukee County has received a $250K state grant to help construct The Sherman Phoenix, an entrepreneurial and wellness hub that will house 20 businesses primarily owned by people of color. The hub is being built on the former BMO Harris Bank that was damaged in a 2016 fire. More here.
Katherine: Madison was chosen among 21 other U.S. cities for the2018 Smart Cities Collaborative, a forum in which city representatives meet to discuss solutions for common transportation problems. Madison, the only Wisconsin city chosen to participate, was also selected last year by the initiative’s organizer, Transportation for America. More here.
Jim: The Wisconsin Veterans Chamber of Commerce and Ward4are launching a new co-working program for military veteran-owned startups so that they have a place to work for free. The program, dubbed The Command Post, will provide resources, education and support to qualifying startups. More here.
Katherine: The Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corp., based in Milwaukee, is opening a new women’s entrepreneurship center in Appleton with the help of funding from the U.S. Small Business Administration. More here.