Promoting a healthy business climate since 1911, WMC is a merger of the Wisconsin Manufacturers Association, the State Chamber of Commerce and the Wisconsin Council of Safety.
A group of 16 men led by F. J. Sensenbrenner gathered on November 10, 1910 to initiate plans for development of a statewide organization which would represent industry and promote its interest. On January 18, 1911, their ideas became a reality with the formation of the Wisconsin Manufacturers’ Association (WMA). In addition to Sensenbrenner’s full-time responsibilities at Kimberly-Clark, he also served as WMA’s unpaid lobbyist until 1919 when a full-time staff person was hired. The association had 200 members and the dues were $25 per firm.
George F. Kull, who had been on the staff of a Fox River Valley newspaper, was hired in 1919 as WMA’s first executive secretary and manager. He also became its first full time lobbyist, working at the WMA office in Madison. Kull served on the Workmen’s Compensation Advisory Council, and was named a member of the Unemployment Compensation Advisory Committee when it was organized in the mid 30’s. Kull hired a female staff member to travel around Wisconsin explaining the free enterprise system to school children. Under his guidance, membership reached 600.
Robert Ewens succeeded Kull as executive secretary in 1946. He helped to organize statewide manufacturers’ associations in other states and was considered an effective spokesman in Madison and Washington D.C.
Paul E. Hassett, executive secretary to then Governor Warren P. Knowles, assumed the office of executive secretary in 1970. During Hassett’s term, the Wisconsin Council of Safety became a division of WMA in 1973, and a political action committee was established in 1974. In 1976, after two years of negotiation, WMA merged with the Wisconsin State Chamber of Commerce to become the Wisconsin Association of Manufacturers and Commerce.
In 1981, the WMC Foundation was organized to sponsor Business World, a then week-long program held each summer to help high school students and teachers learn how the free enterprise system works. Hassett initiated the move of the office from Milwaukee to Madison.
James S. Haney replaced Paul Hassett as president in June 1985. The move to Madison became a reality and the association moved into its newly constructed building in May 1986. Along with the move to Madison, the Wisconsin Association of Manufacturers and Commerce became Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC). Over the 75 years, WMC had grown steadily from the original 200 members to more than 3,000.
From 1987 to the present, the success of the WMC government relations team in projecting and accomplishing a proactive business agenda has been second-to-none. Staff additions in the areas of environmental, taxation, energy, transportation, health care and human resources policy have strengthened WMC’s in-house expertise.
In March 2011, WMC appointed its fifth president in its 100-year history. Kurt R. Bauer joined WMC from his post as chief executive of the Wisconsin Bankers Association. Since taking the reigns Bauer has launched this new website and instituted a new quarterly print publication. Both of these mediums aim to keep members informed of the current happenings at WMC, and to offer insight into what will help businesses stay competitive in this increasingly global marketplace. Bauer has also remodeled WMC’s headquarters furnishing the building with modern amenities and a state-of-the-art security system.
Bauer and his team at WMC will continue to work tirelessly to act as Wisconsin’s business voice and advocate on behalf of all businesses in Wisconsin to make the Badger State the most competitive state in which to do business.