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Wisconsin manufacturers answer the call for PPE

Soon after President Trump invoked the Defense Production Act of 1950 in response to the lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for COVID-19, Wisconsin manufacturers got to work.

Monterey Mills in Janesville pivoted from producing knitted pile fabric used in paint rollers to developing reusable, durable protective face masks. The company’s president worked day and night to redesign the factory while at home suffering from COVID-19. The company has now ramped up production to 65,000 masks daily.

Prent Corp. in Janesville manufactures plastic packaging products. The company designed a new face shield made of recycled PETG and foam that could be produced and delivered to hospitals faster than a traditional face shield. Less than 12 hours after they learned about a shortage of face masks at nearby Mercyhealth, Pent Corp had a prototype in the hands of doctors.

Face new challenges with an adaptable workforce

This crisis has shown how innovative, resilient and adaptable the workforce in Wisconsin can be. While the work ethic of the Midwestern worker is well known, our workforce’s ability to adapt, learn new skills and accept new challenges sets them apart. With a foundation of hard work, eagerness to learn and a desire to be successful, they are willing to do what it takes to learn new skills and processes to help their employers succeed. The Midwest has some of the most productive and reliable workers in the nation.

One reason Wisconsin and Iowa workers might be above the national average is the number of people who have received the National Career Readiness Certificate. Both Iowa and Wisconsin rank in the top 10 in both the total number of NCRCs earned and the number earned per capita. The ACT WorkKeys National Career Readiness Certificate is an assessment-based credential issued at four levels. The NCRC measures and certifies the essential work skills needed for success in jobs across industries and occupations. A NCRC credential verifies proficiency in:

  • Problem-solving
  • Critical thinking
  • Reading and using work-related text
  • Applying information from workplace documents to solve problems
  • Applying mathematical reasoning to work-related problems
  • Setting up and performing work-related mathematical calculations
  • Locating, synthesizing and applying information that is presented graphically
  • Comparing, summarizing and analyzing information presented in multiple related graphics

With a higher than average number of career readiness certificates, Alliant Energy is confident that future organizations and employers will be able to tap into the most qualified labor pool.

Building the energy grid of the future

We continue to transform our distribution system into a continuous two-way flow of electricity and digital information. The Integrated Grid includes projects that deliver significant system improvements and leverage new technologies and tools to satisfy emerging customer requirements.

Our grid modernization efforts will offer better power quality and more reliability as well as broader access to clean energy and energy-efficiency options. We will be able to better handle the flow of power and information from customers and the grid.

Moving underground

When we update our distribution systems, we prefer to install underground (UG) cable whenever it’s cost effective and practical. Underground systems have far fewer outages and are safer to the public.

The average minutes per year a customer will be without power is nearly 89% less with underground distribution compared to overhead.

Alliant Energy partner brings companies together to produce face shields

The COVID-19 crisis has temporarily closed the Digital Manufacturing Lab powered by Alliant Energy in Ames. Rather than remain idle, our partner Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS) has used their time and expertise to help companies make a difference.

CIRAS connected two Alliant Energy customers from different parts of the state who teamed up to make tens of thousands of face shields. The Dimensional Group of Mason City makes the front part of the face shields. Angstrom Precision Molding of Ottumwa makes the halos, which is the part workers wear around their head. Both companies are in the Alliant Energy service area.

In addition to connecting the two companies, CIRAS helped to make the project cost-efficient and quick, deploying a 3D printer and digital simulations in the process.

The companies, which had never worked together, are now producing thousands of face shields each week. They sell them to the state of Iowa for $1.25 each. The market price for similar equipment usually is $8 to $10 each. The state buys the equipment to distribute to hospitals and other medical facilities.

Despite their main business being down by 80%, the companies were able to retain their employees to make the face shields. Without Alliant Energy’s support of technology in manufacturing, this pivot might not have been possible. Alliant Energy is the largest private donor to CIRAS.

Alliant Energy has purchased 1,000 of these face shields and donated them to rural hospitals and long-term care facilities across the state of Iowa.

Focus on Energy recognizes Wisconsin’s top energy efficiency achievers

Focus on Energy, Wisconsin’s statewide energy efficiency and renewable resources program, recently honored 13 winners for efforts to reduce energy waste. Focus on Energy offers energy expertise and financial incentives to help Wisconsin homeowners, businesses and other groups invest in energy-efficient equipment and practices.

By getting in on energy efficiency, this year’s award winners not only see reduced energy consumption and cost savings – they also support technology innovation, job creation, lowered environmental impacts, increased competitiveness and reduced dependence on nonrenewable resources.

Two companies served by Alliant Energy received awards.

Mercury Marine changes production and upgrades buildings

Mercury Marine is driven by environmentally conscious production and sustainable energy management. The company has made extensive production changes, building envelope upgrades, indoor and outdoor lighting conversions and compressed-air improvements. The company worked with Alliant Energy on energy efficiency projects from 2018 to present. Mercury Marine saves 2,733,386 kilowatt hours of electricity and 169,000 therms of natural gas annually, enough to power 478 homes for a year. The company also saves more than a quarter of a million dollars annually from energy reduction.

When expanding facilities at its headquarters in Fond du Lac, the company has used energy-efficient climate control and water-heating equipment, and it has used windows and natural light elements in the designs to lower energy costs.

Coextruded Plastic Technologies, Inc. finds savings with Advanced Rooftop Controls

Coextruded Plastic Technologies (CPT) makes Go-Green trays, which have a reduced carbon footprint compared to conventional thermoforming.

Directed to Focus on Energy by Alliant Energy, CPT has implemented multiple energy-saving projects like nine rooftop units installed in 2019 that include Advanced Rooftop Controls. These new units will help CPT save 14,575 therms of natural gas and 301,049 kilowatt hours of electricity annually. That’s enough to power more than 250 homes for a full year.

Locate at the Midwest’s food and fuel hotspot in Ames, Iowa

If you’re looking for an attractive community with a well-educated workforce, take a closer look at Ames, Iowa.

Ames is well-positioned along the Interstate 35 corridor and home to land-grant Iowa State University, a tier-one research institution with 36,000 students. The university provides global reach in engineering plus agricultural expertise focused on plant science and animal health. Add to this the National Centers for Animal Health, a federal Department of Energy Laboratory, and the Iowa State University Research Park with nearly 90 companies all located in Ames and you can see a community poised for significant growth in a wide variety of industries.

Centrally and conveniently located in Iowa’s Cultivation Corridor, Ames is known for its healthy, stable economy and flourishing cultural life. The area is an attractive destination for new businesses to locate and for existing businesses to expand.

Prairie View Industrial Center
Ames is home to one of Alliant Energy’s premier sites. The Prairie View Industrial Center is a 730-acre site with excellent access to transportation. It is located just east of Interstate 35 and north of four-lane U.S. Highway 30. The Union Pacific Railroad serves the property off the adjacent double-track east to west mainline.

See the Digital Manufacturing Lab Powered by Alliant Energy in action

This exciting partnership between Alliant Energy and Iowa State University’s Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS) helps businesses evaluate problems and find opportunities using innovative technology.

The lab utilizes departments across Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. It brings students and faculty from a variety of backgrounds to help companies solve problems and stimulate innovative ideas. CIRAS can help industry test new technology such as cobots, 3-D scanning and other technology and train staff how to use it.

Access a strong talent pipeline

To thrive now, businesses must respond to a constant battle for employees, which makes the relationship between quality of talent and business performance even more dramatic. Today and into the future, winning organizations are not those who outspend, but rather outmaneuver their competitors.

Communities across Alliant Energy’s service area provide industry with a continual pipeline to a highly skilled and well-educated workforce. Putting the right talent in the right place at the right time will greatly reduce companies’ overhead costs for the long term. Our market offers access to the best and most productive workers.

Iowa is #1 in the nation for high school graduation rate and #3 for 4-year college graduation rate. Every year, Iowa graduates over 2,000 engineers from 14 accredited institutions.

Wisconsin has a 91% high school graduation rate and nearly 30% of the population has a bachelor’s degree.

Read more about the talent pipelines in Iowa and Wisconsin.

Animal nutrition industry growing in Iowa and Wisconsin

Iowa and Wisconsin are home to several major names in the animal nutrition/pet food industries including Cargill Animal Nutrition, Arm & Hammer Animal Nutrition, Nestle Purina PetCare and Mars Petcare. Operations in Iowa and Wisconsin are literally located in the middle of the North American market.

Over the next few years, animal nutrition production will enjoy a trend of steady growth and our location to beef cattle, dairy cattle, swine, poultry and sheep allows producers to get to the market faster and increase annual production revenue. Sales in the U.S. pet food industry are expected to continue to rise.

Read more about the animal nutrition industry

Sustainable companies see faster growth

PepsiCo has announced plans to achieve 100% electricity for its U.S. operations this year. The company cited the threat of climate change as its biggest driver for switching to renewable energy. This move signals a significant shift by manufacturers to responsibly source energy and reduce emissions. According to a recent Nielsen report, consumers are also paying attention – companies with sustainability initiatives are growing faster than the ones that do not. “No matter what, sustainability is no longer a niche play: your bottom-line and brand growth depend on it,” the report states.

Alliant Energy understands this growing focus on sustainable energy and is working to meet these companies’ needs. The company recently announced a suite of renewable options that enables businesses in its Iowa and Wisconsin service area to meet 100% of their energy usage.

“We’re accelerating our transition to a clean energy future and putting renewable energy to work for our customers,” said John Larsen, Chairman, President and CEO of Alliant Energy.

With several offerings, companies can mix and match the different options to best fit their needs. Customers can even establish their own dedicated solar projects without needing internal expertise. Alliant Energy will build and maintain solar projects on behalf of customers.

Alliant Energy also leases space from customers for rooftop or ground-mounted solar and battery installations. Companies can turn their property into a source of income and demonstrate their commitment to renewable energy.

Several community solar sites across Wisconsin and Iowa are also in the works. Anyone interested in supporting sustainable energy can buy in. Participants can buy blocks in a local project and cover up to 100% of their usage.

Read more about Alliant Energy’s Clean Energy Blueprint in our Powering What’s Next plan.

Iowa State University building new feed mill and grain science complex to better serve industry

Iowa State University is constructing a $21.2 million Kent Corporation Feed Mill and Grain Science Complex on a 10-acre site of university-owned land in Ames, Iowa. The complex will include a feed mill tower, feed milling and mixing structures, grain storage bins, warehouse and an educational building with classrooms. Completion of the compound is expected during the summer of 2021.

The state-of-the-art complex will enhance teaching programs related to feed technology, grain science and animal nutrition. Classes and short courses will be taught, research conducted and animal feed prepared. Students and industry trainees will use the complex to learn how to keep the food system secure and sustainable.

When completed, the facilities will provide hands-on learning experiences for students across majors such as animal science, agricultural biosystems engineering, agricultural business and more. This past fall, a new minor in feed technology debuted, developed by faculty in the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering along with faculty in the Department of Animal Science. The minor will help prepare students to meet a growing demand for highly skilled professionals in the feed and grain industries.

The complex will reinforce the quality of research by Iowa State faculty, serving as a source for custom-made animal feeds for academic studies. The facility also will be a hub for continuing education and extension programs for employees in feed milling and grain industries. It will provide extension and outreach programs on topics that include feed technology, grain science and animal nutrition.

The mill will have a capacity of approximately 20,000 tons of feed per year to meet needs of ISU classes, tours, short courses, research diets, internships, small batches and rations for livestock and poultry.

Iowa leads the nation in the amount of animal feed consumed at more than 21 million tons a year. The feed industry in the state represents more than $20 billion in sales and more than 58,000 jobs in Iowa are connected to the industry.