The story of Werner Electric Supply is a story of progress. The company has grown substantially from our modest beginnings in 1948. With the help of our loyal customers and valued partners, we have grown into an organization of which we can be proud. This growth has been shaped by our focus on serving our customers, and it is a story we would like to share with you.
In 1950, the operation moved to 980 Chapman Ave., Neenah. Werner Electric partnered with Allen-Bradley in 1955 to support the needs of local companies—many of which used only this line of electrical products. After Werner’s death in 1961, his son Lynn Werner became the President and CEO of Werner Electric Supply. During this time, Werner Electric Supply expanded operations to include a new location in Green Bay (1973).
New Ownership & Rapid Growth
In 1984, Lynn T. MacDonald, a former Allen-Bradley branch manager, joined the Werner Electric team with a clear vision of where he wanted to guide the company. As the new Vice President of Sales and Marketing, MacDonald realized that Werner Electric needed to expand into new territories and enter new markets to remain viable as an independent distributor. However, Lynn Werner’s untimely death in September 1984 left the future of the company unknown. There were no succession plans documented.
Lynn T. MacDonald worked with the Werner family over the next two years and eventually purchased the company from the Werner family on September 29, 1986 (exactly two years to the day after Lynn Werner’s death). MacDonald’s purchase was the “start of something big.” It was easy to see he had a vision of where he wanted Werner Electric Supply to go. This vision led to the construction of a new facility in Neenah to serve as the corporate headquarters and Neenah warehouse in 1986, just two years after he joined the company. The facility was over 30,000 square feet and was located at 2341 Industrial Drive. Skeptics thought that such a large structure was foolish and that the company would never use the entire building. The growth continued, however, resulting in the addition of five new locations in the next nine years, which served most of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan. Warehouse facilities were now located in Wisconsin Rapids (1988), Wausau (1994), Iron Mountain (1994), Ashland (1994), and Fond du Lac (1995).
MacDonald continued to prove the skeptics wrong when he completed the addition of 10,000 square feet of warehouse and office to the Neenah facility in September of 1998. At the same time, he completed 8,000 square feet of additional warehouse space in the Green Bay location. All of this coincided with the celebration of Werner Electric Supply’s 50th anniversary celebration that ended in January of 1999.
MacDonald’s commitment to diversifying and improving Werner Electric’s product and service offerings was again revealed when he announced the acquisition of Cole Electric Supply on June 1, 1999. With locations in Janesville, Madison, and Stevens Point, along with lighting galleries in Janesville and Stevens Point, Werner Electric Supply further established itself as a reliable and valuable service provider in Wisconsin and surrounding areas. Werner now serviced new markets including automotive and food and beverage; this drastically reduced the impact a recession in the paper industry would have on Werner Electric. The acquisition raised the number of employees above 250, and placed the company in the top 50 among electrical distributors in the country.
Two short years after purchasing Cole Electric Supply, MacDonald started to take steps to purchase Northland Electric Supply (Minnesota) as well as Van Meter Industrial (Iowa). Letters of intent were signed for both acquisitions. However, in the summer of 2001, the economy deteriorated quickly. With the events of September 11, 2001, bringing the economy to a virtual halt, MacDonald adjusted his plans accordingly. In November of that year, Werner Electric entered into a 50-50 joint venture with Van Meter Industrial to purchase Northland Electric Supply. Northland Electric became Werner Electric Supply of Minnesota. Combined sales at that point exceeded $250 million. Today, the joint venture made up of Werner Electric Supply, Van Meter Industrial, and Werner Electric Supply of Minnesota has combined sales of over $400 million.
The Next Step to Completing His Vision
Part of Lynn T. MacDonald’s vision was to service the entire state of Wisconsin. With the joint venture purchase of Werner Electric Supply of Minnesota, a major geographical section of far Western Wisconsin was now covered. The remaining major market was Southeastern Wisconsin, made up primarily of Milwaukee, Racine, and Kenosha counties. As a result, MacDonald purchased Best Electric Supply on December 5, 2005. Headquartered in West Allis (Milwaukee), Wisconsin, Best Electric also had locations in Menomonee Falls and Racine. This major metropolitan area accounts for half of the entire electrical supply market in Wisconsin. In addition to embarking on a venture like this in a high profile market, MacDonald has further diversified the markets we serve which helps protect against the fluctuations of the U.S. (and, more specifically, the Midwest) economy.
Werner Electric Supply now has 10 locations servicing Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Nearly 300 people are employed in these locations.