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Humble beginnings to state’s leading electrical supplier

2023 marks the 75th year in business for Werner Electric Supply in Appleton

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March 23, 2023

APPLETON – Werner Electric Supply, headquartered at 4800 W. Prospect Avenue in Appleton, has been providing quality electrical products and services since 1948.

The company, which is celebrating its 75th year in business, got its start by Walter Werner, who opened an appliance store in downtown Neenah.

Walter also ran an electrical contractor shop out of the back of the store.

After a few years, in an effort to increase access to better pricing and access to electrical products, Werner Electric Supply was born.

The physical location has moved a variety of times over the years.

In 1955, Werner Electric Supply partnered with Allen-Bradley Products in 1955 to support the needs of local companies, many of which used that line of products exclusively.

When founder Walter passed away in 1961, his son Lynn Werner took the reins and served as president and CEO until he died in 1984.

When Lynn Werner passed away, Werner Electric Supply was acquired by Lynn T. MacDonald, a former Allen-Bradley branch manager who became Werner Electric Supply’s vice president of sales and marketing before becoming the owner in 1986.

MacDonald would oversee the construction of a new, 30,000-square-foot headquarters and warehouse located at 2341 Industrial Drive in Neenah.

The facility received a 10,000-square-foot addition in 1998.

MacDonald served as owner and CEO from 1986 until his passing in 2017, however, ownership of Werner Electrical Supply remained in the MacDonald family.

Since 2020, the company has been led by President Craig Wiedemeier, who joined Werner Electric Supply in 2012 as vice president of operations and became COO in 2019.

The company today
Werner Electric Supply’s current location is a 200,000-square-foot combination headquarters and state-of-the-art distribution center, which opened in 2016.

The company has also seen much growth since its one-location start in Neenah.

Today, Werner Electric Supply has locations in Appleton, Fond du Lac, Green Bay, Janesville, Kenosha, Madison, Pewaukee, Sheboygan Falls, Stevens Point, Wausau and Iron Mountain, Michigan. 

Craig Wiedemeier

Although Werner Electric Supply’s 11 locations cover mainly eastern and central Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, Wiedemeier said the company’s reach goes beyond that.

“(We cover) the eastern two-thirds of Wisconsin and one in the U.P. of Michigan, so the core geography we service with our deliveries on a day-to-day basis (are) in that geographical location,” he said. “But we service and support customers beyond just our footprint here. We have customers who are doing projects in other states where we support them with products, information and technology – those types of things, as well.”

Werner Electric Supply currently employs around 500 people and Wiedemeier said finding employees is one of the challenges the company faces.

“Our business runs on people, and it is critical for us to find talented folks who want to continue to grow their career and want to continue to learn and be challenged,” he said. “As we have grown over the last several years, we have needed to add people. We need to add folks who are technology savvy, want to work with customers and find solutions for them. Our ability to keep up our pace of hiring with our growth has been challenging, for sure.”

Industry trends
When asked what trends in the industry he is excited about, Wiedemeier said he’s most excited about automation and artificial intelligence (AI).

“We are an automation supplier – that is a big thing we do,” he said. “We continue to see customers look for ways to further automate their facilities and operations, whether it is specific to manufacturing or food and beverage and so on and so forth.”

Wiedemeier said the company continues to see increased interest and discussion around automation and what it means.

“I think it is interesting with some of the AI technology and what role that will play moving forward,” he said. “To try to help further supplement both our customers and then for us to support them – what does that look like and how can we leverage that technology?”

Sustainability, Wiedemeier said, is at the forefront for Werner Electric Supply as many customers look for solutions, such as LED lighting.

“We have had a lighting division for many years,” he said. “We can do lighting audits and energy audits for them internally in their facilities that make recommendations on how to design and layout and upgrade their facilities to become more energy efficient, (as well as) improve their lighting to create a safer, more productive environment for their employees.”

A look inside Werner Electric Supply’s state-of-the-art facility located at 4800 W. Prospect Avenue in Appleton. Photo Courtesy of Werner Electric Supply

Wiedemeier said the company expects to see continued interest from customers who want to learn more and understand the impact they have from a carbon footprint standpoint.

“How can we help them measure?” he said. “How can we help them better understand and reduce their carbon footprint overall?”

In terms of the future of Werner Electric Supply, Wiedemeier said that depends on the needs of customers.

“We are always looking to expand where our customers need us to expand – whether that’s geographically or offerings we provide to them,” he said. “We want to look at ourselves and for our customers to look at us as a solution provider for them.”
Wiedemeier said the key to Werner’s longevity and success is its people.

“It is a focus on our customers and the relationships we have built and the trust we’ve earned over the years,” he said. “It doesn’t happen quickly or easily, but we’ve earned that trust. It is important we continue to maintain that customer-first focus. As it evolves with what their needs are, we need to continue to evolve with them to better support them in the long run. It served us well for many years. We need to continue that same mindset moving forward.”

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