By Rich Rovito

Tammy Schwarzbauer’s career at WMEP Manufacturing Solutions began as an assignment from a temporary staffing agency.

Nearly 20 years later, Schwarzbauer is still on the job at WMEP and has seen her work roles evolve over time to include increasing levels of responsibility.

“It has changed tremendously,” Schwarzbauer said of her role with WMEP.

She started as an office administrator and was involved in the organization’s contract process and landed the job in part because of her knowledge of the Northeast Wisconsin business sector, which she gained earlier in her career during 10-years with the renowned Bergstrom Hotels, and two years as a corporate account manager for Centurytel (now Verizon).

In her two decades with WMEP, Schwarzbauer has held roles such as maintaining statewide training schedules, managing inventory of materials, internal and external meeting planning and execution, product development, providing operational support to field consultants and serving as an associate manufacturing specialist.

Among the key roles she now holds is serving as the administrator of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) survey, which, through a third party research firm, assesses the economic impact of WMEP’s services on its customers’ operations.

“It (generating impact for clients) is our mission. It’s the reason why we are here,” Schwarzbauer said. “I think what sets us apart from other organizations is that we see our projects through to fruition. Because of our consultative approach and account management, that certainly leads to more follow-on work and it really gives the opportunity to say, yes, this is what we did. This is what we wanted to accomplish. This is what we ended up with.”

The NIST survey is important to WMEP in a variety of ways, including demonstrating value to key stakeholders.

“We have to prove our worth and our value. There has to be justification,” she said. “The NIST survey process is it. It causes people to think and realize what the impact we’ve had on an organization truly is.”

Schwarzbauer handles another key role at WMEP, that of manager of the organization’s events, including the annual Manufacturing Matters! Conference, which attracts about 500 attendees for a daylong gathering designed to provide immediate and tangible benefits to busy manufacturing leaders. The 2021 Manufacturing Matters! Conference will be held virtually on Feb. 25.

She first started overseeing the planning of the annual conference several years ago, when it was held at the Wisconsin Center in Downtown Milwaukee, where it drew upwards of 700 people annually.

“But we were losing money on it,” Schwarzbauer said. “It was nice to have an opportunity to turn that into an event that is self-funded and provides a very valuable experience for manufacturers.”

When WMEP’s current Executive Director and CEO Tim Wiora took over the day-to-day leadership of the organization in 2016, a decision was made to rebuild the conference and transform it into more of an educational event as opposed to a traditional trade show.

“We needed to find a way to bring it to an educational platform and bring value across the board to all of our stakeholders and attendees,” Schwarzbauer said. “We’ve been very successful at that.”

Planning for a fully virtual conference presents challenges and is requiring the organization to pivot from its normal in-person annual gathering.

“It’s a sad day when you have to go from in-person event planning to virtual, as far as I’m concerned,” Schwarzbauer said. “But it’s time to adapt and advance, which is our theme for the 2021 conference. I don’t think it could be more appropriate.”

The organization has also refined its webinars to be more successful in the midst of the pandemic.

“Most times making changes is something you don’t want to do but when you have to do it you have to look for the opportunities and I think we’ve done a good job with that,” Schwarzbauer said. “I’m very proud to have been part of moving to the virtual world but I do miss planning the in-person component.”

Schwarzbauer is a lifelong resident of the Fox Cities. She is grandmother to six grandchildren and has two daughters. Outside of work, she enjoys refurbishing and bringing new life into old outdoor garden pieces and serves as a volunteer with the Salvation Army, a local animal shelter, and chairing local benefits for friends and family. She stays active in the summer by working in her flower gardens, golfing and biking.

“I’ve been blessed to work with wonderful, insightful people and people who have allowed me to grow my career as well and have always been patient in giving me new opportunities to grow and learn,” Schwarzbauer said. “It’s a great company to work for. Our leadership is fantastic and the teamwork within the organization is absolutely amazing.”