Historically known as a beer town because of the location of four of the world's largest breweries within the city (Schlitz, Blatz, Pabst, and Miller, of which only Miller remains in Milwaukee), Milwaukee is a major manufacturing community with over 20% of the population engaged in manufacturing occupations (well above the national average). Major industry segments in Milwaukee include:
- Financial services
- High technology
- Printing and publishing
The Milwaukee area is home to ten Fortune 1000 companies. The largest company in the area is Johnson Controls. The most famous is the motorcycle company Harley Davidson. Fortune 1000 companies in the Milwaukee metropolitan area include:
- A.O. Smith
- Johnson Controls
- Joy Global
- Marshall & Ilsley Corp.
- MGIC Investment
- Northwestern Mutual
- Rockwell Automation
- Wisconsin Energy
Other significant companies in the Milwaukee area include:
- Briggs & Stratton
- Koss Corporation
- Master Lock
- Roundy's Supermarkets
Business awards awarded to the Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis metropolitan area include:
- The Milwaukee area was ranked 18th among the top fifty "Hot Cities for Entrepreneurs" among large cities and metropolitan areas in the U.S. according to a 2005 Entrepreneur magazine survey.
- The Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis metropolitan area ranked 52nd among large U.S. Cities on Inc. magazine's 2006 survey of the "Best Cities for Doing Business" (out of 393 metropolitan areas across the United States). The Milwaukee area ranked in the top ten for "Most Balanced Economy and Growth" in the 2004 and 2005 editions of the survey.
- In 2006, SustainLane ranked Milwaukee 16th among fifty major U.S. cities for sustainable services and economics.
For the business commuter, the Milwaukee area is served by four interstate highways, three US highways, the Milwaukee County Transit System, and the Hiawatha Amtrak express service between Milwaukee and Chicago. For air travel, the Milwaukee area is served by the General Mitchell International Airport (MKE). General Mitchell International is served by at least ten major airlines and fifteen commuter airlines.
Business and economic development organizations in the greater Milwaukee metropolitan area include:
- The Greater Milwaukee Convention & Visitors Bureau
- The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce
- The Milwaukee Economic Development Corporation
- The Waukesha County Chamber of Commerce
- The West Allis / West Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce
- The Young Professionals of Milwaukee