Maybe you're looking for some geographic diversity in your portfolio, or perhaps you want to look in your own backyard to support local business and draw from regional information sources. Either way, I'm here today to help you understand what's good in Wisconsin. And I don't mean cheese, or the Packers. Sorry, Titletown.

No, we're here for business. Without further ado, here's a selection of promising investment ideas in the Badger State:


Market Cap (billions)

CAPS Rating (out of 5)

Bull Ratio

Johnson Controls (NYSE:JCI)




Manitowoc (NYSE:MTW)




Oshkosh Truck (NYSE:OSK)




Actuant (NYSE:ATU)








Data from Motley Fool CAPS on Oct. 11, 2007.

Yep, you can run a billion-dollar business from the heart of America's dairy land -- 25 of them, to be exact, going by the market caps. And as you can tell from the table above, it's easy to find brilliantly run companies here in a variety of somewhat unexpected industries. The heavy industrial slant to this market should be easy to spot, though.

For example, one All-Star CAPS user, BudandMolly, raves thusly about industrial-controls maker Johnson Controls: "This is one of the best run companies in the country. It is in the sweet spot and will grow 20% plus per year for the next 5 years." And there hasn't been a negative comment on this stock in our investor community for the past five months.

All five of the excellent businesses listed above fall within the industrial sector, and none of them has suffered any serious complaints among CAPS commentators. You'll see more "anti-bandwagon" strategists on the thumbs-down side of these stocks than reasoned and researched arguments.

Motorcycle legend Harley-Davidson (NYSE:HOG) is one exception -- our CAPS players think the subprime meltdown will hurt the chances that working-class Americans will get their own V-Rods anytime soon.

Foolish takeaway -- hold the cheese
In short, Wisconsin would be a great place to look for investment ideas in the heavy-manufacturing sector. The top 12 market caps in the state belong to one regional bank, one national retail chain, one employment agency, one information service -- and eight companies in heavy industry. And all of the good CAPS grades belong to the gritty gear grinders.

The Fool has highlighted some of these opportunities before. The Motley Fool Hidden Gems analysts have picked out Actuant for our subscribers, while Plexus is a Hidden Gems Pay Dirt pick. And don't forget about Kenosha, Wiconsin's own Weezer ... er, Income Investor recommendation Snap-on (NYSE:SNA). Yep, they're all manufacturers of various kinds.

Wisconsin did set a new record in cheese-curdling last year -- more than 1.1 million metric tons of coagulated dairy represented one-quarter of the nation's cheese production in 2006. But that's not so easy to invest in, unless you happen to have some farmland near Sheboygan. I'd stick with the heavy-machinery and transportation stocks here.

Do you agree? Disagree? Feel free to weigh in on the Wisconsin market -- or on any stocks at all, really -- by joining Motley Fool CAPS and blasting away with your ratings and commentary pitches. And if Fond Du Lac County isn't your 'hood, maybe we'll come around where you live next time.

Heavy Foolishness abounds:

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.