In Marketplace

In Marketplace

TAPCO, located in Brown Deer, was started in 1956.

In Marketplace

In Marketplace

TAPCO sells traffic and parking safety equipment to the public, too.

In Marketplace

The showroom is open daily from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Locally based TAPCO an industry leader in traffic safety

With gas prices on the rise and new policies and ideas on the table, it's time to look at how we get around. We all need to get someplace and we use many different modes of transportation to do so. As we kick off 2011 at OnMilwaukee.com, we're taking an in-depth look at how we get around with a special "Transportation Week," featuring all kinds of stories about how Milwaukee gets where it's going. So, buckle up, hop on and all aboard.

You wouldn't know it, but you can find a little piece of Wisconsin on just about any road or highway in the United States.

Street and highway signs, traffic signals and more are a product of Brown Deer-based TAPCO -- Traffic and Parking Control Services, Inc.

The company was founded in 1956 by Ray Bergholz and John Kugel. Bergholz was a World War II veteran with a passion for public speaking.

Participating in a group at Marquette University, Bergholz drew a topic out of the hat and gave a talk entitled: "Traffic and Parking; America's Worst Nightmare."

That speech sparked an idea in Bergholz's head and he got to work.

"He decided to start his own business," says Bergholz's grandson, Andrew, Executive Vice President of Sales. "He thought he might be able to make a buck in the industry and that's how it all got started."

Ray Bergholz began small, working out of the basement of his duplex and eventually, the business evolved along with the nation's driving habits.

Today, Andrew Bergholz is the third generation of his family in the company, which currently employs around 130 people working in a number of different departments.

"We're kind of a one-stop shop for all things traffic and parking," he says. "We do it all, from soup to nuts."

Business goes in cycles, Bergholz says. The company has three divisions; traffic, parking and signals. During the 1990s, when the housing market was at its peak -- especially for Downtown condos and the like -- parking technology was a strong suit.

"Trends like that come and go," Bergholz says. "The recession had people wondering how we'd do, but we've grown and done well."

The company makes much more than just street signs, though. Traffic signals and the technology to run them is a strong product. Ramp metering systems and overhead and side-of-the-road electric signs are also a big part of TAPCO's business.

Currently, the company's biggest push is in the field of LED lighting and other "green" initiatives, like wireless technologies. Many municipalities are switching from incandescent lighting to LED technology, looking to find ways to save money.

And almost all of the products are made right here in Southeast Wisconsin. TAPCO designs and fabricates all of its signage in-house -- one of the largest sign shops in the Midwest.

Highway departments and government agencies aren't TAPCO's only customers. The public can purchase traffic and parking safety aids directly from the company showroom, online or through a catalog.

"We don't, obviously, sell the specific street signs," Bergholz says. "But the public can come in, shop and get what they need."

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