- Wisconsin is popular with tech companies because that state has lower taxes than surrounding states.
- The largest tech company in terms of employees is Johnson Controls, with 97,000 employees.
- The largest tech company in Wisconsin by revenue is Google, at 257 billion.
When you think of Wisconsin, visions of dairy farms, cheese, beer, beautiful lakes, and the Green Bay Packers most likely fill your head. But what about technology? We’ve compiled a list of the largest tech companies in Wisconsin to set the record straight about this Upper Midwestern gem having more to offer than meets the eye.
Wisconsin is a business-friendly state, with relatively low taxes compared to its neighbors, Illinois and Minnesota. So, not only have some great tech companies been founded here, but more are certain to pop up or relocate to the state in the future.
Largest Tech Companies Founded in Wisconsin
Using the metric of total employees, we’ve compiled this list of the big tech players in Wisconsin, how they stack up, and what they do. So, starting at the top, let’s see which companies were actually founded in this beautiful and friendly U.S. state and what they produce.
#7: Derco Aerospace – 284 employees
As a subsidiary of Lockheed-Martin, Derco is actively engaged with the U.S. military. Their AI technology is in constant flow to make the shift from manned to unmanned (or optionally-manned) a safe and smooth transition. Founded in Milwaukee in 1979 by Eric and max Dermond, Derco hasn’t strayed too far from its roots.
Derco, which is now located only blocks from its original facility, focuses on after-market repairs and solutions for both commercial and military clients internationally. Originally called Derco Repair Services, the company changed its name to Derco Aerospace in 1995. Sikorsky Aircraft, a pioneer in helicopter technology for civilian and military use under the Lockheed-Martin umbrella, purchased Derco in 2002.
#6: Magnetek – 350 employees
Magnetek specializes in developing and producing both digital power and control systems for mining, people moving, and material handling. Their diversified systems handle everything from industrial hoists to elevators and hydraulic mining equipment that is able to recover coal.
Founded in 1984 with the LOB (leveraged buyout) of Litton’s Magnetic Group, Magnetek has got some real-life technology on its resume. What’s more, the company’s remote-control systems help protect workers in dangerous situations. Magnetek was formally traded on the Nasdaq as MAG, but is now under the umbrella of parent company Columbus McKinnon.
#5: Renaissance Learning – 700 employees
One of the buzzwords in the tech field you hear a lot these days is SaaS (software as a service). Renaissance provides SaaS services to PreK-12 students for education and assessment in one-third of U.S. schools and in 90 countries worldwide. Judith Paul founded the company in 1986 in her home in Port Edwards, Wisconsin, to encourage her own children to read more. Since then, the company has grown into a SaaS leader in the field of education.
Originally called Advantage Learning Systems, Inc., the company changed its name in 2001. And in 2016, it dropped Learning to become Rennaissance. The company was traded publicly from 1997 to 2011, at which time Permira purchased all outstanding shares. In 2018, Rennaissance was sold to its current owners Francisco Partners.
#4: Epic Systems – 10,000 employees
Epic is the first privately held company to make the list, and is one of the more interesting tech companies in Wisconsin. It provides healthcare software to hospitals. As of 2022, its systems manage the data of 78% of the patients in the U.S. and 3% worldwide. Judith Faulkner founded Epic Systems in 1979 in Madison, Wisconsin. In 2005, Epic moved its headquarters to a campus-styled location in the nearby town of Verona, Wisconsin.
An interesting thing to note about Epic, besides the fact that it’s a private company, is the campus itself. This “Harry Potter” meets “Lord of the Rings” at Disneyland and Harvard is an amazing working office for a global giant in healthcare. Epic’s founder has received many awards, including the Distinguished Alumni Award by the Wisconsin Alumni Association (WAA).
Although there has been some criticism of the company’s policy surrounding its handling of the Covid pandemic, Epic is continuing to expand and improve its garden and theme park-styled campus in 2022.
#3: Rockwell Automation – 24,500 employees
Tracing the roots of Rockwell will take you back to 1903, when Milwaukee native Lynde Bradley teamed up with Stanton Allen. Together, they invested $1000 to advance their ideas of automation. Technical automation implies machines without human intervention. They wasted no time in demonstrating their first inventions at the Word’s Fair in 1904.
Wartime accelerated the company’s expansion, as it did with many other early tech companies. With WWI in 1914 bringing government contracts and WWII bringing massive production volumes, the company continued to grow. Known at the time as Allen-Bradley, the company continued under its founder’s names until Rockwell International purchased it in 1985.
Through acquisitions and the formation of new companies, Rockwell automation has become involved in everything from IT to industrial automation, robotics, and cybersecurity. Interestingly, in 2001, the company was split into two separate firms. The industrial automation branch became Rockwell Automation, while the avionics portion became Rockwell Collins. The former is traded on the NYSE as ROK. It’s also an S & P 500 component.
#2: Fiserv – 44,000 employees
Fiserv, Inc. is a multinational fintech (financial technology) company founded in 1984 in Brookfield, Wisconsin. It provides services to banks, credit unions, mortgage companies, insurance, and retailers. Through their company First Data, Fiserv also provides 2 million ATMs in the U.S. with its STAR network.
In 2018, Fiserv signed a 25-year deal with NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks for the naming rights of the downtown Milwaukee “Fiserv Forum.” The venue is home to the Bucks, as well as the Marquette University men’s basketball team, concerts, and other major events. Fiserv is traded on the Nasdaq as FISV and is a NASDAQ-100 and S & P 500 component.
#1: Johnson Controls – 97,000 employees
Professor Warren S. Johnson, who had received a patent for the first electric room thermometer, founded Johnson Electric Service in 1885. Known today as Johnson Controls, the company is a true American success story. After Johnson’s death in 1911, the company moved from a residential to a commercial-only business model.
Today, Johnson Controls focuses on cooling for data centers, HVAC, and robotic security systems for business. Their autonomous security robots are equipped with sensors and cameras for access control and surveillance. In 2016, Johnson merged with Tyco International and moved its headquarters to Cork, Ireland. What’s more, the company is traded on the NYSE as JCI and is both a Fortune Global 500 member and an S & P 500 component.
|Renaissance Learning||Wisconsin Rapids||700|
Largest Private Tech Company in Wisconsin That You May Not Know About
In the primary section of the article, we mentioned that Epic Systems was a private company. Not only are they private, but they are the largest private tech employer in Wisconsin. Epic hit its peak revenue of $2.9 billion in 2021, making Judith Faulkner the most powerful CEO in the Wisconsin healthcare tech industry. Additionally, Faulkner made the Forbes’ America’s Top 50 Women in Tech list in 2018.
As we discussed earlier, the vision and creative design of the company’s campus in Verona is a unique testament to Epic’s motto – “Do Good. Have Fun. Make Money.”
The Largest Publicly Traded Tech Companies in Wisconsin
These names shouldn’t surprise you too much. Although not headquartered in Wisconsin, the biggest names in tech have partnered with many Wisconsin companies and currently have a huge effect on the state’s economy. Let’s take a look at them, ranked by their 2021 revenue.
#3: Microsoft – $168.1 billion
Microsoft has partnered with many tech companies in Wisconsin and has office facilities in Milwaukee and Madison. The tech giant has invested in everything from election security with its ElectionGuard technology, to education with the TEALS (Technology Education and Literacy in Schools) program.
#2: Foxconn – $214.71 billion
Although Foxconn’s original investment in Wisconsin was cut back significantly, the company has still managed to pour a lot of revenue into its Milwaukee-based interests in the state. With its “Foxconn in Wisconsin” project in the town of Mount Pleasant, the company is building data center infrastructure and high-performance computing capabilities. The new terms of the agreement will invest $672 million and create 1,454 new jobs for the area.
#1: Google – $257.6 billion
With their Wisconsin offices in the state capitol of Madison, Google has brought many great opportunities to The Badger State. In 2021, the company provided $8.61 billion dollars in economic activity to its partners in Wisconsin. These included businesses, nonprofits, developers, and many more. Google also employs over 120 Wisconsin residents full-time.
Largest Forgotten Tech Company in Wisconsin
Frozen Codebase, a Wisconsin-based game developer, had a short run creating games for the likes of Windows, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. Founded in 2006, the company employed just 24 people. And by January 1, 2012, it had dissolved due to “creative differences.” A small group of the company’s diehards moved on to become Thawed Codebase and developed games like “Batman: Arkham Origins.”
For more information on the largest companies in tech or other industries, check out these other History Computer articles!
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