By: Roman Reynebeau
About two years ago, I was working in Milwaukee at a corporate job that had run it’s course. I’d survived multiple cycles of mergers, layoffs, outsourcing, and restructuring but it just wasn’t fun or rewarding anymore. I decided that I needed a change and being in the software business, I was naturally drawn to the technology hubs that we all hear about such as Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Seattle, Austin, Denver, etc. At the time, I’d been living in Milwaukee for about five years, enough to feel invested but my perception of limited opportunities in the area made it seem like the West Cost was the place to be. After a few months of networking, interviewing, and having long conversations with my wife, I eventually decided to take a risk by joining MacGregor Partners, a very small startup here in Milwaukee that didn’t even have an office.
Over the last two years I’ve seen this company, and Milwaukee as a whole, take leaps and bounds in the right direction. We believe that Milwaukee is poised for a renaissance and to back that up I’ve outlined five reasons below as to why we decided to invest in Milwaukee.
The Greater Milwaukee Area has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to education. Within the city limits alone we have three world class universities in the Milwaukee School of Engineering, the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, and Marquette. These three universities alone have a combined enrollment of 41,559 students. Combine that with some of the lesser known schools in the area and we believe that we’ve got an active student population of around 100,000 and an even larger alumni population. In an era where there is an extreme labor shortage, specifically in the IT industry, having access to a large population of college graduates is key to fueling the growth of any company.
Milwaukee Tech Community
Milwaukee is a mid-sized city but when the city is frozen half of the year, it limits the type of activities you can pursue with your free time. As a result, during the winter months Milwaukeeans spend their time getting together and arguing about the latest design patterns and discussing the newest technology trends. We have very active meetup groups and professional organizations that focus on every discipline of technology you can possibly imagine from more traditional technologies like Java and .Net or emerging trends such as Big Data or AWS. This level of involvement results in a very passionate and knowledgeable workforce and creates a very tight knit community that’s very willing to share information and help others succeed.
Milwaukee Investment Boom
Milwaukee has seen a surge of commercial investment in the last few years. It’s impossible to go anywhere in the downtown area without bumping into a construction site. The two most prominent projects would be the Northwestern Mutual Tower and the new arena for the Bucks but that’s just scratching the surface. Office buildings, outdoor spaces, condo buildings, apartment buildings, and even new highways, are springing up everywhere. In fact, we have brand-new office buildings being constructed on both sides of our office. Being in such proximity to multiple construction sites gives us a daily reminder of just how much the city is growing. Clearly investors are bullish on the future of Milwaukee and we see no reason to doubt them.
When you think of Milwaukee, most people think of a rust-belt city with a hard-working blue collar attitude that’s famous for beer, brats, and Harley Davidson. It’s true that the city has gone through a painful decline as the manufacturing industry, previously the cornerstone of the local economy, slowly dried up. While this may not seem like an ideal environment to build a company, where others see problems, we see opportunity. Given the history of the area, we believe that this labor market is ideally suited to fuel the growth of a software & services company that specializes in optimizing warehouses & supply chains. There is a lot more that goes into writing and implementing software after all, than just knowing how to code. We need experienced people that understand the ins and outs of logistics that aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and make things happen and that’s exactly what we’ve been doing the last few years. Not only does Milwaukee have a storied history of successful blue collar companies, recent history also shows us that tech companies in the area who play in the supply chain vertical have enjoyed success. Companies such as McHugh Freeman, RedPrairie, JDA Software, NiceLabel, Catalyst, and HK Systems have proven that Milwaukee can yield a very successful software company. There have even been instances outside of the supply chain vertical where local startups have been successful such as Zeon Solutions, Penrod Software, Digital Measures, Connecture, API Healthcare, and PKWare to name a few. Even traditional brick and mortar companies are getting in on the action and making significant investments in technology. We plan to match these local success stories and one day eclipse them.
If you didn’t catch on to this yet, the majority of the executive team at MacGregor Partners has ties to Milwaukee. Yes, we could have opened an office out of state but if you’re going to build something on your terms, why not build it in your own backyard? To further drive home this point, in an interview with Tech Crunch a few years ago, Mark Zuckerberg made the comment that if he had to do it all over again he would have kept Facebook in Boston. Many entrepreneurs get the idea that they have to move to Silicon Valley because they’re trying to imitate the success of others but eventually end up regretting the chance to build something in their local community. Here at MacGregor Partners we draw inspiration from other successful companies but that doesn’t mean that we must follow their path verbatim. We firmly believe that we can be every bit as successful in Milwaukee as we could on the West Coast and we plan to help put Milwaukee on the map as a major player in the software industry. We hope that others follow our lead.
If you want to join the fun and help us make the world more efficient, checkout our current openings today.