My last posting on soccer mentioned the industrial sports leagues in Milwaukee. A city of ethnic neighborhoods much like other rust belt towns was made prosperous by locally owned companies with worldwide reputations. Good jobs attract good workers and cutting edge technology. The current visa program for engineers and scientists is perhaps the last remnant of the days when “Old World” skilled artisans enjoyed easy entry into the New World.
Besides beer, Milwaukee became a city of tanners, chemical makers, foundries, and machine shops. These trade activities soon grew to impressive sizes, and their newly wealthy owners sought to maintain that edge.
If you study the history of internal combustion engines, for example, you learn that southeastern Wisconsin once made more of them than anywhere else in the world. They might not have been for high-performance automobiles, but they dominated the lawn mower, outboard motor, and industrial engine niches. I say “internal combustion” because at one point Milwaukee was at the cutting edge of diesel engines too, thanks to the Falk family recruiting one of Dr. Diesel’s top aides following the great inventor’s death (by suicide or foul play)?
The Falks were looking to broaden their product mix following the very successful move into enclosed gearboxes facilitated by the recruitment of herringbone gear expert Percy C. Day in 1913. Unfortunately, the diesel venture was not as successful for the family and Day moved on to another Milwaukee firm. His legacy at Falk was a bulletproof, powerhouse diesel that was still in service during my time there.
Other Milwaukee firms continued to bring new technology to town. Before it was swallowed up by Rockwell, Allen-Bradley could boast of making more “computers” than anywhere else in the world — provided you classed programmable controllers as computers. Regional planners hope to become a center of water technology in the coming years — including water purification and aquaculture.
What is your hometown’s history with new technology? What should your community be working on today?