What began in 1979 as a small, Neenah engineering and manufacturing firm with about 30 employees has expanded into a global corporation with close to 15,000 employees on three continents.
Along the way, Plexus Corp. has developed a major economic footprint in Wisconsin’s Fox Valley — including Winnebago and Outagamie counties — where more than 1,900 of those employees work in manufacturing centers, a Winnebago County design center, and the firm’s global headquarters. Because of the technical nature of Plexus’s work, having UW–Madison — a world-class research facility — close by provides benefits for both Plexus and the university.
“For us, it’s critically important,” says Joshua Hinnendael ’01, senior site director for Plexus’s Neenah Design Center. “We have access to a number of universities for engineering talent, but UW–Madison, with its research focus, has provided us access to some very creative talent and that’s important to Plexus’s success.” In fact, Dean Foate ’82, Plexus’s executive chairman, earned his bachelor’s degree in engineering from UW–Madison; and Plexus president and CEO Todd Kelsey ’87, MS’89 earned both of his engineering degrees from the UW, as well.
“UW–Madison, with its research focus, has provided us access to some very creative talent and that’s important to Plexus’s success.”
Plexus helps firms conceptualize, design, build, and service highly complex products for a variety of markets including: communications; industrial and commercial; healthcare and life sciences; and defense, security, and aerospace. The firm, with annual revenue exceeding $2.5 billion, has also partnered with the university on a number of initiatives. Plexus is a sponsor of the Badgerloop team, which won an innovation award at the worldwide 2017 SpaceX Hyperloop pod competition, in which students design futuristic high-speed transport vehicles.
The firm’s $200,000 gift also made possible the Plexus Collaboratory at the College of Engineering. The learning facility gives students an open, collaborative environment that breaks down the barriers between the classroom and the lab. And, Plexus supports the college with senior design projects in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Hinnendael, who sits on the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering’s advisory board, says efforts like these strengthen the talent pipeline, helping to develop engineers better prepared for work at Plexus.