Oscar Mayer file photo, bologna, Delifresh honey smoked turkey

A traditional package of Oscar Mayer bologna is seen alongside the brand's Delifresh honey smoked turkey.

STF

Food manufacturing is just a small part of Wisconsin's economy, but it has suffered a larger decline in Dane County in the 21st century than it has in the state as a whole.

And that's not including the impending close of Oscar Mayer's Madison plant, announced Wednesday.

Between 2001 and 2014, the number of Dane County jobs in food manufacturing dropped by 40 percent, according to annual Bureau of Labor Statistics figures compiled through the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages.

In Wisconsin as a whole, the decline was just 1 percent, although there was a significant decline between 2001 and 2006 from which the subsector has nearly recovered.

Food manufacturing includes industries that transform livestock and agricultural products into food products for retail or wholesale marketing. Oscar Mayer's Madison plant produces hot dogs, bacon and cold cuts.

In 2001, food manufacturing jobs represented 2.4 percent of Dane County's private sector employment; in 2014, the sector's share fell to 1.2 percent.

Statewide, that share stayed relatively stable — 2.8 percent in 2001 and 2.7 percent in 2014.

More than 700 employees are expected to be affected by the closing of Oscar Mayer's Madison offices within the next two years, according to a company spokesperson. Another 250 corporate employees will see their jobs shifted to the Chicago area.

In an October 2014 report on the area's agriculture, food and beverage industry cluster prepared for the Madison Region Economic Partnership, Matt Kures of the UW Extension Center for Community and Economic Development wrote that a loss in food manufacturing employment was a result of changes at individual companies rather than declining regional competitiveness.

"Sufficient data exist to suggest that the Madison Region's drop in food manufacturing employment is largely explained by job losses in dairy manufacturing and animal processing," Kures wrote. "Some of these declines are the result of nine mass layoff and plant closing events in the region's dairy processing industry, affecting more than 600 employees between 2000 and 2010.

"Furthermore, the job declines in animal processing are likely attributed to gradual employment reductions at Oscar Mayer in Madison, which is by far the largest animal processing facility in the region."

Oscar Mayer was Dane County's largest private employer at times during the 1990s, but the overall economic landscapes of both the county and the state have changed greatly in the 21st century.

In 2001, manufacturing was the state's largest sector but ceded that title to trade, transportation and utilities in 2002. Both have experienced a net loss in jobs in the 21st century as jobs in education and health services have steadily increased, even through the recession years.

In Dane County, job totals in information and professional and business services have soared, while manufacturing jobs were down by 20 percent.

Todd D. Milewski covers Wisconsin Badgers men's hockey and the UW Athletic Department for the Wisconsin State Journal.