Wisconsin’s Hidden Hub of Locally Owned Businesses

Kortnee Hass

September 14, 2022

Photo Credit: Kohler Co.

Often our team at Discover Wisconsin focuses on the destinations of Sheboygan County and how they have some of the greatest places to visit all year round. But did you know that Sheboygan County and the communities within are also great places not only to live but also to work and build a career? Let’s dive into the many multiple-generation family-owned businesses headquartered in Sheboygan County and learn more about how these companies started, grew, and stayed in the area!

Multi-Generational Family-Owned Companies

Photo Credit: @jarredvelier via Instagram

We all know that Wisconsin is America’s dairyland and businesses in Sheboygan County have truly set the standard for cheese across the country. If you didn’t already know, Plymouth is the Cheese Capital of the World, and businesses within the community produce an estimated 10-15% of the nation’s cheese! Sargento Foods has been a major contributor to the growth of the cheese industry in Wisconsin since being founded in 1953. Sargento is known as one of the world’s first successful prepacked, sliced, and shredded cheeses. Other major companies that contribute to the cheese business in Sheboygan County are Sartori Cheese, Great Lakes Cheese, and Masters Gallery Foods. 

Another Wisconsin favorite, brats! Sheboygan is the Bratwurst Capital of the World and home to two major sausage producers: Johnsonville and Old Wisconsin. Johnsonville, a small-town family-owned business, started as a recipe and a dream in 1945 and grew to become one of America’s favorite sausage brands. Old Wisconsin started in 1947 as a small sausage shop, and while they have grown immensely since then, they still use many of the original recipes. 

Along with the cheese and sausage industry, Sheboygan County also boasts a lot of other worldwide companies right in their beautiful communities! One is Kohler Co, which was founded in 1873 and is still a thriving business for over 140 years. Kohler is best known for their plumbing products such as sinks, toilets, faucets, and other plumbing fixtures. Bemis, another manufacturing company that calls Sheboygan County home, is a family-owned business that traces its roots back to 1901 and is headquartered right in Sheboygan Falls. Bemis focuses on innovations for everyday life from bathroom products, and health care products all the way to retail. 

And we can’t go on without mentioning Krier Foods in Random Lake. Krier Foods is a fifth-generation family-owned business known for its premiere packaging. Many local Wisconsin businesses take part in using their specialty to create their beverage packaging. Two Discover Wisconsin favorites, Jolly Good Soda and Clutch Energy Drink, are packaged right in Random Lake and then dispersed all over for locals and visitors to enjoy and take back home with them!

How The Companies Grew Within Sheboygan County

Photo Credit: Discover Mediaworks

Now that we’ve dove into how Sheboygan County truly is a hub for family-owned businesses and companies throughout the area, we can’t forget to talk about how they have also grown in and with the communities throughout the years. As mentioned earlier, Kohler has been a part of the County for 140+ years and has a strong history of growth and expansion. Throughout the years, Kohler has truly jumped leaps and bounds to what it is today, and it’s all because of the growth in Sheboygan County and the great work and lifestyle the area provides. This family-led company is now completely global from the United States to Brazil, Germany, India, and so many more locations!

Another company paving the way for the communities of the County is Sargento Foods. Sargento is a third-generation family-owned company that truly prides itself on hiring good people who they treat like family members. Now known as another global company, Sargento’s manufacturing is still headquartered in Plymouth, Wisconsin, the Cheese Capital of the World! Sargento is just another example of one of the many family-owned businesses in Sheboygan County that truly make living and working in that community pleasurable.

Along with both Kohler Co and Sargento Foods, Johnsonville is another staple to the community. This family-owned and operated business that started in 1945 is still running strong right in the town that bears its name, Johnsonville. Known as one of the most popular brands of sausage in the US, Johnsonville can also be found in more than 45 countries! Its roots remain strong in the town and they rely on the same values as they did when Johnsonville first started as a family-owned butcher shop in small-town Wisconsin. 

The Quality of Life in Sheboygan County

Photo Credit: John Michael Kohler Arts Center

Now we know that Sheboygan County is home to some of the greatest worldwide companies in the state, but that doesn’t only make the quality of life so special in the area. Living in Sheboygan County comes with many strengths. Some awards that Sheboygan County has won are:

– Advisorsmith.com ranked Sheboygan County at #4 in June of 2021 as a Top City Where U.S. Manufacturing Is Thriving.

– In 2016, Lawstreemedia.com named Sheboygan, WI Top 10 Safest Metros in the Midwest.

– GoodCall named Sheboygan among the top 50 places in the nation for teachers to work due to a low cost of living, favorable amenities, teachers per capita, high school graduation rates, and teacher salary. 

– The Sheboygan County MSA is tied for the 3rd highest concentration of manufacturing in the United States accounting for 33.1% of employment, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

And there are many more that come with living in the area! Living and work are two important factors to a key quality of life but we know that getting out and exploring is a key factor to happiness! We have done a deep dive into summer in the area, ways you can find new learning opportunities, and what makes the area so unique to Wisconsin on The Bobber and you can read each here:

What Makes Sheboygan County Unique

Find New Learning Opportunities in Sheboygan County

A Summer Getaway in Sheboygan County

We have explored a lot of Sheboygan County on The Cabin Podcast too! You can listen to ‘An Iconically Wisconsin Hub: Sheboygan County’ here: 

With many worldwide companies spanning the entire area, Sheboygan County is truly a hidden hub for some of the greatest locally owned Wisconsin businesses. Whether you’re looking to kickstart a new career or are just solely looking for a great community to live in, you can find that all in Sheboygan County! 

Kortnee Hass: Social Media Coordinator for Discover Mediaworks. A Wisconsin ‘now & forever’ transplant with a soft spot for squeaky cheese curds, craft breweries, and all things Wisconsin tourism.

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