It was a mix of company leaders, retirees, and city and county officials who gathered Wednesday at Waukesha Bearings to celebrate the company’s 50-year anniversary as part of the Antigo community.

“We are proud of our success and growth to become a supplier of precision bearings to some of the largest multinational corporations from our small town, northern Wisconsin location,” said Mark Greenlund, plant manager.

Greenlund, who has been in Antigo almost two years, also noted the plant recently marked 365 consecutive days without an accident.

Mayor Bill Brandt praised the company, its workers and its leadership.

“Waukesha Bearings has been a great part of our community,” he said. “I don’t know of another manufacturer who would hold an event like this and have as many retirees care about their business to show up. That’s why you’re such a great business, and that’s why you’ve excelled all these years—because of the quality workforce.”

Global leaderWaukesha Bearings is a global leader in the design and manufacture of engineered hydrodynamic bearings and magnetic bearing systems.

Founded in Waukesha in 1946, Waukesha Bearings opened its Antigo manufacturing facility May 2, 1972, with a staff of three full-time employees. In 2019, the plant expanded to 100,000 square feet of manufacturing space and now employs 120 full-time employees.

The manufacturing space was added to accommodate production for marine bearing systems and other new projects awarded to the company.

Greenlund was presented with a certificate from the office of Congressman Tom Tiffany, commemorating Waukesha Bearings’ 50 years in Antigo.

The company continues to grow and is currently in a hiring mode.

“We are looking for people within the Antigo community who want to be part of the next 50 years of success at Waukesha Bearings,” Greenland said.

The Antigo plant is the largest of four manufacturing sites and is supported by engineers in Waukesha. To serve its global customer base, Waukesha Bearings also has manufacturing facilities in the United Kingdom, China, and Mexico.

Greenlund said an article in the Antigo Daily Journal of 50 years ago quoted Bob Rice, then president of the Antigo Industrial Corp.

“He said that … the challenge is going to be finding that technical, highly skilled trained workforce that we’re looking for,” Greenlund said. “Things haven’t changed in 50 years. We’re still looking for those kind of people to join us.”

Among the retirees at the event were the husband and wife duo of Jeff and JoAnn Liedtke.

Jeff Liedtke started with the company in 1974 and retired in 2017. Along the way he met his future wife who worked in the purchasing department.

“I started as a machinist and about two years later, I went into quality control,” Jeff Liedtke said. “In 2000, Waukesha built a plant in Spartanburg (South Carolina), and my wife and I were offered a job, so went to the Spartanburg plant to get that going. Then they closed and we were offered our jobs back here.”

Jeff Liedtke said he started at Waukesha Bearings when he was about 20 years old with thoughts of working there a few years and then moving on.

“They kept building my education up, sending me to tech schools,” he said. “It was an excellent place to work for.”

Local leadersBrandt also praised the company for its investment in the workforce.

“You’ve thrived, and that’s been great for our community,” he said. “You’ve been leaders in the community.”

Brandt recalled when Waukesha Bearings staff worked with the Northcentral Technical College to train students in machinery operation. It was only later that companies would follow in their footsteps.

“It was one of the first signs of industry actually jumping out ahead of things in trying to train people for the future,” Brandt said.

Optimized for top performance in oil and gas, power generation, marine and industrial markets, Waukesha Bearings products are engineered to provide low power consumption, reduced operating temperatures, and increased reliability and efficiency. Typical applications include gas, steam, and hydro turbines, centrifugal gas compressors, gearboxes, pumps and motors.

Product designs address the needs of everything from large-frame turbomachinery to small, high-speed turbochargers, electric submersible pumps to subsea pumping equipment, compressors to gearboxes.

Waukesha Bearings is part of Dover Precision Components, an integrated provider of performance-critical solutions for rotating and reciprocating machinery.

Tim Renard, vice president of engineering with Dover Precision Components, has been with the company since 1995, tracing his roots to the Antigo plant.

Waukesha Bearings has been part of the Dover Precision Components since 1977.

“I’m a home-grown guy. I wear a corporate badge, but this is my home plant,” he said. “This is where I grew up, and that’s a testament to all of you.”

Antigo is high on the pecking order for company investment, Renard said.

“Waukesha Bearings is held in high regard by the corporate leadership,” he said. “You do a fantastic job, do quality products and service the customers well. We’re ready to invest here.”

Renard also read congratulatory comments from Dover Precision Components President Marcell Ulrichs.

“The Antigo facility ... has been the flagship manufacturing plant for Waukesha Bearings,” Renard said.

“This plant is worth investing in, a quote that I steal from our president who was here at one time and said, ‘This plant is worth investing in. Bring us the projects; we’ll invest the money,’” Greenlund added. “So, we’re really looking forward to the next 50 years.

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