Dan Ebert has been named executive director of the Midwest Energy Research Consortium. He will take on the day-to-day duties of Alan Perlstein, who was executive director and chief executive officer.
Perlstein will remain CEO of M-WERC until June, when he plans to retire. He will continue to work with the board of directors.
Ebert is based in Madison, and will travel to Milwaukee a couple days per week. He was previously managing director of the Madison M-WERC office. Ebert has also worked as senior vice president of government affairs and external relations at Sun Prairie-based electric utility WPPI Energy, and chairman of the Wisconsin Public Service Commission, which regulates the state’s utilities.
“We’re fortunate to have someone with Dan’s experience and relationships to step into this role,” Perlstein said. “As an organization we’re excited about his ability and interest in helping M-WERC navigate the energy, power and controls sector in Wisconsin and throughout the Midwest.”
In addition, Jacquin Davidson has been appointed managing director-Milwaukee to assist with running local programming. Davidson is managing director of M-WERC’s startup accelerator, WERCBench Labs, and will retain that role.
M-WERC is an industry trade association for energy, power and controls companies in the Midwest. The organization recently opened part of its renovated Energy Innovation Center space on the second floor of the Century City tower at 4201 N. 27th St., which totals about 21,000 square feet. When complete, it will include lab and prototyping space, tenant space, and a training facility.
Since it opened the new M-WERC offices and partner lab space space early this year, five companies have set up shop inside: Advanced Ionics, BlueLine Battery, Cadens, Present Power Systems, and Young Enterprising Society.
Advanced Ionics recently moved from founder Chad Mason’s Fessenden, North Dakota hometown to Milwaukee to locate at M-WERC. It has been installing equipment in the space for its work, Mason said.
“Basically, I was looking for a place where there was a few things available,” Mason said. “One was a good location with good facilities, but also where there was a good community with people with a lot of experience in engineering and manufacturing. Milwaukee just made a lot of sense and at the same time, M-WERC was launching the WERCbench Labs program for 2018.”
Advanced Ionics offers hydrogen-as-a-service for lab and medical usage. The company is working to complete its first prototype, and is seeking connections to companies that use hydrogen. It will finish the WERCBench Labs program in March, and Mason has been bringing on a few part-time team members to help scale the company, he said.
“I looked closely at what the needs were for solving greenhouse gas emissions,” Mason said. “No one was really addressing the production of hydrogen itself.”
BlueLine Battery Inc. is based in Whitewater, but has opened an additional office at EIC. Its 11 employees work at either office, depending on their needs. The company makes industrial lithium-ion batteries that can be installed in forklifts to keep factories and warehouses running.
The batteries can also be used in other industrial applications, said chief executive officer Dustin Herte. BlueLine is currently working on a prototype for a new smart battery that can track usage and charge a company by use, instead of an upfront investment.
At M-WERC, BlueLine is generally conducting its research and development work. In the fourth quarter of 2018, BlueLine achieved its first quarter of profitability, Herte said.
“There’s been a tremendous amount of support at M-WERC and in that portion of Milwaukee in getting companies like ours moving,” he said. “We know what we can provide will make the city in general and the way products flow much more efficient.”
Present Power Systems is developing ultra-compact, highly efficient power electronics for solar, energy storage, medical and automotive uses. PPS, previously based in Whitefish Bay, was co-founded by Jason Katcha and Ezana Mekonnen, and has participated in both M-WERC’s WERCBench Labs startup accelerator and its Advanced Innovation Program.
Cadens has developed a low-head hydropower research facility to test and develop AM turbine systems. It was previously based at the Global Water Center, 247 Freshwater Way in Milwaukee.
Young Enterprising Society, which previously shared space with M-WERC on the seventh floor of the same building, is an umbrella organization for the initiatives of brothers Que and Khalif El-Amin. Among YES’ projects is The Blueprint, an entrepreneurship training program for Milwaukee startups in technology, e-commerce and advanced manufacturing, which will now be operated from the new M-WERC space. The Blueprint completed its inaugural program in November.
And M-WERC announced it is adding a training program that will prepare workers in the Century City neighborhood for the energy, power and controls jobs its startups and member companies are creating. It hopes to partner with a technical college to offer the training, and plans to add another three to four employees internally.
“In Wisconsin, our unemployment rate is down to 3 or 4 percent, but in the Century City area, it’s 12 percent,” Davidson said. “So we really want to help train and make jobs for people that live in the neighborhood.”