Today, Friday, May 22, 2020, is National Maritime Day – an annual, time-honored tradition that recognizes one of our country’s most important industries. In the midst of a global pandemic, this vibrant maritime workforce has labored around the clock and continued to deliver vital goods and products – including consumer necessities, medical equipment, raw materials and energy – to communities across the nation, including those in Wisconsin.
Joining in the celebration, Senator Ron Johnson stated,“Wisconsin is proud of its rich shipbuilding and maritime history. Bordered on three sides by commercially navigable waterways, our state has benefited greatly over the centuries from water transportation. National Maritime Day is a wonderful time to reflect on the importance of this industry to Wisconsin.”
In addition, the White House issued a National Proclamation, calling on all Americans to celebrate the importance of maintaining America’s maritime strength and sovereignty in support of the nation’s economic, homeland and national security interests.
To participate and show your support for Wisconsin maritime workers, we invite you to join us on Twitter using the hashtag #NationalMaritimeDay.
Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company built 28 U.S. submarines during WWII.
Submarine USS Robalo – built and ready to launch in 1943
USS Robalo launches in Manitowoc, Wisconsin on May 9, 1943.
Photographs courtesy of the Wisconsin Maritime Museum
Wisconsin: A Maritime State
Wisconsin has a long history of maritime exploration and commerce, dating back 2,000 years to indigenous settlers exploring in canoes. Early European settlers traveled west to Wisconsin on steamboats. Trade along the Great Lakes has been crucial to the state’s growth for nearly two centuries, and bountiful natural resources have been shared with the rest of the nation thanks to its coastal and inland river system access.
Nestled between the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes, Wisconsin is America’s best example of a maritime state. Its internal waterways – creeks, rivers, and more – create an even greater connection to the water. Without Wisconsin’s contributions to maritime history, the United States as we know it might not even exist.
Wisconsin’s arguably greatest contribution to maritime history is shipbuilding. Shipbuilding and shipping were some of the first industries in the state. It helped grow and defend the United States from the 1840s through today. The early trade established along Wisconsin’s waterways nurtured the early interstate commerce economy of the United States, and the 28 submarines built in Manitowoc helped propel the United States to victory in WWII.
Today, divers explore shipwrecks in the Great Lakes. Wisconsinites and tourists alike enjoy fishing, boating, and other recreation on the water. Wisconsin shipyards like Fincantieri Marinette Marine in Marinette and Fraser Shipyards in Superior continue to build ships for the Navy and other sea services. Our national economy depends on goods shipped through the Great Lakes. Wisconsin is home to people whose livelihood, recreation, and history are all tied to Wisconsin’s coasts and waterways.
J.F. Brennan Company
WIDMAC Member Spotlight
Founded in 1919J.F. Brennan Company (Brennan) is a fourth-generation, family-owned marine solutions company based in La Crosse, employing more than 200 American men and women from Wisconsin and more than 250 additional workers nationwide. Once a humble builder of roads and bridges, Brennan is now a leader in dredging, marine construction, wetland remediation, habitat restoration, and various heavy civil infrastructure projects.
Brennan considers its people to be the keys to its success and strives to be the best possible place to work. Its corporate philosophy The Brennan Wayputs people first with a love for company, for work, for coworkers and talents, and for family. In 2019 Brennan received its third “Great Place to Work” Award.
“People are the foundation of everything we do and being the type of organization that grows and develops its people is how we’ll ensure that we exist through the next 100 years.” ~ Matt Binsfeld, Brennan President & CEO
Brennan regularly supports many Wisconsin-based organizations including La Crosse Children’s Museum, Marquette University, and United Way and since early March has assisted Wisconsin during COVID-19 by making large donations to local food pantries, family support centers, homeless shelters; running its own food bank initiative, and donating its inventory of face shields to frontline healthcare workers.
Fraser Shipyards has a rich history of more than 125 years of continuous operation on the shores of Lake Superior. Its experienced, highly skilled workforce of more than 150 American maritime men and women is able to perform to the exacting standards of its customer base by virtue of state-of-the-art capabilities and continually upgraded facilities.
In the past five years Fraser Shipyards has invested approximately $10 million in cutting-edge equipment. Its new headquarters includes working accommodations for the U.S. Coast Guard and the American Bureau of Shipping. Fraser’s 60-acre campus is well situated with navigable water access, rail access, and immediate freeway access.
Earlier this year Fraser Shipyards and its sister company Lake Assault Boats were selected to supply up to 119 patrol boats to the U.S. Navy. The contract has a five-year duration, and the craft will provide security for U.S. Navy ships and personnel around the world.
Fraser Shipyards is committed to supporting the local and regional economies and is proud to source quality products and services from more than 400 vendors across Wisconsin and Minnesota. The company’s commitment to innovation, reliability, and superb customer service will serve its customers well for the next 125 years and beyond.