Green Bay Profile

January 18, 2013

Brief History on Green Bay

Green Bay is the oldest settlement in Wisconsin.1 Settled by the French in the 17th century due to its strategic location at the junction of the Fox and Wisconsin Rivers. Green Bay is also a Lake Michigan port and connects, via the Fox and Wisconsin Rivers to the Mississippi River, and, ultimately the Gulf of Mexico. Established as a trading post for fur and agricultural goods, Green Bay eventually transitioned to dairy production, and finally into a factory town catering first to the lumber industry and ultimately paper production.2 Today, with its century-old paper industry in decline, Green Bay has transitioned into a modern city with a diverse economy that includes many service sectors. However, with almost one in five jobs still in some form of manufacturing, Green Bay to a large degree retains its manufacturing heritage.

Why Green Bay was Chosen for the Industrial Cities Initiative (ICI)

Green Bay was chosen for the ICI study because it typifies a Resurgent Industrial City – i.e., one that has broadened and diversified its employment base, and scores highly in measures of well-being. To learn more about the four categories (Resurgent Industrial Cities, Transforming Cities, Fading Cities, and Overwhelmed Cities) into which the ten ICI cities were organized, please read the Industrial Cities Initiative: Working Paper Summary.

Manufacturing History

Compared with the nation’s manufacturing employment trend, Green Bay has maintained proportionately far more manufacturing jobs, as depicted in the chart below. Currently, the average of the employed population working in manufacturing among all U.S. cities is 11.0%, while Green Bay has 18.8% of its employed population working in the manufacturing. Since 1970, the percentage employed in manufacturing for all U.S. workers has fallen from 26.1% to 11.2%, representing a 56.9% drop. However, since 1970, the percentage employed in manufacturing for Green Bay workers has fallen from 27.5% to 18.8%, representing only a 31.8% drop.3

1. Green Bay and the United States: Percent employed in manufacturing

Green Bay and the United States: Percent employed in manufacturing. Chart shows that the percentage has been steadily declining since the 1970s, but that Green Bay has a higher percentage than the rest of the U.S.  

Future of Manufacturing

Despite its relative health and adaptation to a changing global economy, Green Bay shares a key issue with many ICI cities in that its education system may not fully serve the next generation of potential manufacturing workers, who must have complex technical skills, but do not necessarily plan to obtain a four-year college degree. As manufacturing has not been actively or positively promoted as a career path, the current school-age generation may accept false stereotypes of manufacturing as a dead-end career. The NEW (NorthEast Wisconsin) Manufacturing Alliance was created to help build a better image of manufacturing and promote the industry as having a solid career path. NEW Manufacturing Alliance “is a group of manufactures, working with educational institutions, workforce development boards, chambers of commerce and state organizations to promote manufacturing in our Northeast Wisconsin Region.”4 NEW Manufacturing Alliance has four main objectives: (1) build a positive perception of manufacturing; (2) create and grow partnerships with schools, media, and other outlets; (3) promote workforce development; and (4) advance collaboration efforts that support the industry. City leaders expressed hope that the NEW Manufacturing Alliance and other organizations devoted to improving manufacturing in Green Bay will help the city’ manufacturing industry thrive.


1 National Park Service, Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings, Green Bay, Wisconsin.

2 Andrew E. Kersten, Untold Significance: A Commemorative History of Green Bay, Voyageur Magazine, Winter/Spring 2005, Volume 21, Number 2.

3 Data is from Industrial Cities Initiative Case Study Data, available online.

4 Available online.

The views expressed in this post are our own and do not reflect those of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago or the Federal Reserve System.


Register to receive email alerts when new issues are published.

Subscription Signup

Your request has been submitted. Please tell us more about yourself.

Subscription More Info
Find Publications By:
Find Publications By:
Publication Date

Find or Reset
Having trouble accessing something on this page? Please send us an email and we will get back to you as quickly as we can.

Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, 230 South LaSalle Street, Chicago, Illinois 60604-1413, USA. Tel. (312) 322-5322

Copyright © 2022. All rights reserved.

Please review our Privacy Policy | Legal Notices