• WisBusiness

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Craft beer: Keys to brewing a Wisconsin success

By Brian Mulvaney and Drew Slocum

Wisconsin has long been known as the epicenter of America’s beer scene. Wisconsin has been home to iconic beer giants like Pabst, Miller, Schlitz and Blatz, and while the mega bottlers romanticized by Laverne and Shirley are still around, it is the meteoric rise of craft brewers that is changing the marketplace in a dramatic way.

Now making up 12.2 percent of the entire U.S. beer market and generating over $22 billion in sales, craft beer companies have rocketed into the beer drinking scene leaving many of these new brewers scrambling when trying to scale their businesses and meet increasing consumer demands. With craft beer becoming available in more places—from food trucks to fine dining restaurants—brewers will want to invest in the infrastructure to deliver their products to retailers and consumers in an efficient manner. The following are best practices on expanding your craft beer distribution network and can be applied whether you’re trying to start a local brewpub or become a mainstay at Lambeau Field.

Local, Regional and National Brewers

With 121 craft breweries here in Wisconsin already, and more starting every day around the state, craft companies typically fit into three categories based on size: the small local brewpub, the regional brewer and the national production brewery. Each has unique needs when it comes to production and distribution.

The local brewpub typically sells most of its beer on premise or at the brewer’s restaurant. This reduces the need for distribution and allows the brewpub to recognize profits quickly. A regional brewer, on the other hand, typically requires more equipment, such as tanks, as well as a larger amount of real estate to produce and store inventory. The regional brewer might be selling out of a tasting room, with revenue and growth coming through selling their brand into other accounts. Between 2014 and 2015, regional craft breweries grew by nearly a third (31.9 percent) nationally. At a much larger scale, a national production brewery may have several operations and requires a more sophisticated and robust distribution system.

To Grow or Not to Grow
In a market where Wisconsin craft breweries are producing over one million barrels of beer each year—or 7.6 gallons per drinking-age adult—expansion is often a matter of choice rather than survival. Each category of brewery has its advantages and drawbacks, and each has the ability to deliver a good profit. It’s important for investors and owners of breweries to align on objectives when it comes to growth targets and appetite for expansion. Once brewers and investors agree on business objectives, they can set priorities for investment and determine the amount of capital they’ll need to build their infrastructure. If a brewer aims to slowly expand a brewpub, for example, he may not need to purchase a new warehouse to store beer right away; instead, he can gradually scale up distribution. As part of this evaluation process, brewers will also need to consider operational needs to maintain equipment, including maintenance and upgrades.

Breweries like Lakefront Brewery in Milwaukee serve as a great example of knowing their strengths and when to use those strengths to grow. Slow and steady from their founding in 1987, Lakefront grew from just 72 barrels in 1988 to just under 13,000 in 2009. Then Lakefront took advantage of changing beer tastes and the move towards craft beers and production jumped to 45,000 barrels in 2015. Today they are also one of the highest rated brewery tours in the U.S. and operate a beer hall complete with a Friday fish fry and a polka band.

Assessing Where (and How) to Expand

Brewers also need to evaluate where to expand. Craft-centric regions, including San Diego, Colorado and the Pacific Northwest as well as the newer craft hubs of Austin, Atlanta, Chicago and Ashville, have turned into destinations for craft beer tourism. This means that there’s a large market in these locations for craft beer, though there is also a lot of competition. Other areas of opportunity include traditional grocers and convenience stores. While most Wisconsinites would be hard pressed to locate a grocery store or convenience store that doesn’t carry a selection of at least some craft beers, some stores—like Whole Foods—have created their own brewing company that offers select craft beers and produces about 400-500 barrels annually.

A key partnership for craft brewers are beer wholesalers, who support, sell and distribute their product. As the craft beer industry has continued to grow over the last decade, wholesalers have adjusted their business models from supporting a few key suppliers (such as AB or MillerCoors) to now having more than 30 breweries to support, sell and distribute. Wholesalers have also increased the training and size of staff, often deploying craft-only sales teams. Today, brewers have the opportunity to work with large distributors as well as craft-only distributors. Craft beer’s continued growth will be in part due to the commitment and support of these innovative beer wholesalers.

What Works Best for your Craft Beer?

Ultimately, the value for a particular brewer is case dependent. Key factors to consider include quantitative elements (growth rate and profitability), intangible factors (brand awareness), competition (assessing if similar products are in the market), and finally, succession planning based on the end goal (for example, an IPO).

Brewers need to assess if the distribution strategies implemented would support their growth and closely align their financial strategies with their long-term goals.

While craft beers are expected to climb to nearly one-quarter of the U.S. beer market by 2022, and Wisconsinites will not soon turn in their pint glasses for wine glasses, the industry is certainly becoming much more competitive for the next generation of entrepreneurial brewers. At the same time, their ability to secure capital and know they have options in the future has never been better.

Brian Mulvaney is senior vice president for the Beverage Group at Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Drew Slocum is a Global Commercial Banking SVP and Relationship Manager based out of Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Wisconsin office.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Dairy farmers launch statewide sustainability initiative

By MaryBeth Matzek

On a sunny, warm day this summer, Jamie Patton couldn’t wait to climb into a soil pit to examine the soil on Mark Schmidt’s dairy farm in Casco.

Patton, a soils agent with UW-Extension in Shawano County, was a main presenter at a field day on cover crops sponsored by Peninsula Pride Farms, the farmer-led environmental stewardship coalition. Peninsula Pride brings together the agriculture community, university researchers and scientists to develop solutions to meet the water quality challenges in Kewaunee and southern Door counties. Member farms range in size from 66 cows to 6,000 cows.

Peninsula Pride Farms is one of two “milksheds” already in place in Wisconsin that the newly-formed Dairy Strong Sustainability Alliance hopes to build on.

The roots for the organization go back to January’s Dairy Strong conference in Madison, where Yahara Pride Farms participants shared their sustainability initiatives. Members of the dairy supply chain, from producers to manufacturers, began thinking about ways of getting that statewide, and the Dairy Business Association then helped get the organization of the ground.

“This is truly an alliance and we are all collaborators in this initiative,” said Maria Woldt, the DSSA’s sustainability lead and director of industry relations for the DBA.

The heart of DSSA’s mission is to drive innovation and collaboration in sustainability initiatives across Wisconsin’s dairy industry. Woldt said the DSSA is looking to show tangible continuous improvements in the areas of land use, soil conservation, nutrient management, water quality and use, energy use, animal welfare, food safety, greenhouse emissions, economic health and social responsibility. Collecting data is an important part of that process.

DSSA participants include producers of all sizes, processors, vendors, transporters, conservation groups, consumer packaged goods companies, retailers, government agencies, universities and dairy and trade non-profit organizations. Woldt said it was vital to have all players in the milk supply chain involved.

“Everyone, whether it’s producers, manufacturers or vendors, has sustainability and improvement programs in place and it will be great to share that information and let everyone learn from each other,” she said.

“Milksheds” describes all aspects of the dairy supply chain within a watershed or given area, Woldt said. Milkshed participants from a given area include farms, logistics, service providers, processors and transportation providers. Peninsula Pride Farms and Yahara Pride Farms are the first two milksheds under development, said Woldt, adding that organizers are looking to fill in the missing pieces, such as finding a milk processor.

Field days -- like the one at Schmidt’s farm -- are a vital part of sharing information among farmers to improve their sustainability initiatives, said Nathen Nysse of Tilth Agronomy.
“Cover crops are very important because it promotes soil health, increased water holding capacity, they build and retain nutrients and prevent erosion,” said Nysse, who helped organize the event.

New JA program: Junior Achievement of Wisconsin-Winnebago Region is looking to encourage more young women to pursue careers in the maritime and water ways industries.

On Oct. 6, local businesses and high schools will team up to bring female students to the JA Women on the Water event at Anchor Point Marina in Fremont. Panelists from Mercury Marine, the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office, Anchor Point Marina and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources will talk to students about their education and work experience. The students will also be able to ask questions and learn more about the various professions.

Ski area expansion? Owners of Granite Peak ski area at Rib Mountain in Waupaca say they will announce formal plans to expand the facility, which is on rented land from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, by the end of October. Preliminary proposals include building a ski-in hotel at the base of the mountain, adding more than a dozen beginner and intermediate ski runs and building new ski lifts.

Granite Peak is owned by Charles Skinner, who announced last year he wanted to spend $50 million to expand the ski area so it could stay competitive with other ski areas.

-- Matzek, a freelance writer and editor, is the owner of 1Bizzy Writer. She has worked in the past as a news editor at Insight Publications and as business editor at the Appleton Post-Crescent.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Appleton cancer center selected for national oncology care model

By MaryBeth Matzek

An Appleton cancer clinic is the only one in Wisconsin that’s taking part in a new Medicare payment model.

Fox Valley Hematology & Oncology joined about 200 physician groups nationally that the feds selected for their new Oncology Care Model, part of their efforts to figure out ways to get better care for Medicare enrollees at lower costs.

“We’ve been in business for 25 years and know we want to do the best for our patients, and being part of this care model shows we are keeping to our patient-first philosophy,” said physician Timothy Goggins.

To get approval from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, FVHO had to meet several requirements, including offering weekend access and having a chemotherapy education program. Goggins said the practice, which has satellite clinics in several surrounding clinics, was already doing many of those things in their efforts to improve patient care.

The weekend clinic started more than a year ago, Goggins said, helping to ensure chemo patients who get dehydrated can come to FVHO for intravenous fluids instead of going to the emergency room.

“We can not only offer those services at a lower cost than the ER, but we can offer them in an environment and with providers they are familiar with,” Goggins said.

The clinic also had to add Clear Value Plus, a computer program that highlights evidence-based treatment options for physicians and provides clinical and reimbursement information for patients.

The HHS oncology care model started July 1 and runs through June 30, 2021, covering about 155,000 Medicare beneficiaries nationwide. As part of the program, physician practices may receive performance-based payments for chemotherapy services, as well as a monthly care management payment for each beneficiary.

While the care model is focused on Medicare patients, Goggins said all patients benefit.

“We’ve really expanded our resources to all our patients,” he said. “Patients know they are receiving better care and better value for their money.”

Aviation business park opens: After years of planning, the business park focused on the aviation industry has opened in Oshkosh.

The Aviation Business Park at Wittman Regional Airport is being jointly developed by the City of Oshkosh and Winnebago County. Oshkosh is looking to take advantage of being the home to the Experimental Aircraft and several aviation-related companies, such as Sonex, by attracting new aviation-focused businesses -- whether they are manufacturers or service providers.

The park, which will be developed over the next 10 years, is expected to spur $73 million annually in additional economic activity and bring 250 to 500 new jobs to the community, said Airport Director Peter Moll.

The new aviation business park is divided into two areas. The western half, which belongs to the county, will be leased to businesses and offer accessibility to Wittman’s taxiways. The city owns the eastern half of the park, and those lots are available to purchase.

Health providers team up:
Bellin Health Partners of Green Bay and Holy Family Memorial in Manitowoc have formed a collaborative business relationship, designed to improve care and reduce health care costs.

Both providers say the deal is not a merger, but rather an opportunity to share best practices, develop joint initiatives and offer additional services to consumers.

Through the collaboration, Holy Family Memorial will be able to participate in Bellin Health Partners, a physician-led accountable care organization and healthcare network. Holy Family Memorial’s participation will allow Bellin Health Partners to provide better products and services to health insurance companies while letting the Manitowoc-based health system access more consumers in northeast Wisconsin.

-- Matzek, a freelance writer and editor, is the owner of 1Bizzy Writer. She has worked in the past as a news editor at Insight Publications and as business editor at the Appleton Post-Crescent.

Monday, July 11, 2016

MaryBeth Matzek: Farmers taking environmental lead with new initiative

By MaryBeth Matzek
It’s no secret that well contamination is a big concern in Kewaunee County. Most of this northeast Wisconsin county – as well as neighboring Door County – is home to karst bedrock, which makes it easier for liquids to seep through and enter the groundwater.

Researchers suspect leaky, aging septic systems as well as manure applications from local farms have contaminated up to 30 percent of the county’s wells.

So Casco dairy farmer Don Niles and other local farmers took the initiative and launched Peninsula Pride Farms, an environmental stewardship coalition to develop innovative ways to protect and improve ground and surface water through conservation practices and technology.

Niles, a member of a Department of Natural Resources task force studying the issue in Kewaunee County, said he and other farmers want to do their part in addressing the area’s water woes.

“Farmers, by nature, are innovative problem solvers,” he said. “We can be most effective by working toward solutions in a collaborative manner.”

In late June, the DNR’s Groundwater Collaboration Task Force issued a report with several recommendations, including some that Peninsula Pride members were already implementing.

“The report created a road map. The report goes beyond black and white and presents a lot of practical ideas,” Niles said. “It’s also size neutral -- it has good practices that large and small farms can follow.”

So far, more than 35 farmers from Kewaunee and southern Door counties have joined Peninsula Pride Farms. The farmers, who have dairy herds ranging in size from 66 cows to 6,000 cows, teamed up with university researchers and scientists on the initiative. The group is trying to follow the model of the successful Yahara Pride Farms initiative, located near Madison.

“Peninsula Pride has been well accepted by farmers because they were looking for a voice in the solution and coming up with ideas,” Niles said. “The Kewaunee community is supportive, as well, since they were looking for farmers to play a role” in solving the area’s water woes.

Since Peninsula Pride Farms launched earlier this year, they held one field day and are planning another one later this month. At that first field day in April, they discussed the importance of measuring how much soil is above the bedrock and knowing the importance of that number before applying manure to farm fields.

One DNR task force recommendation calls for a ban of spreading of solid manure on soil with less than 12 inches to bedrock and no spreading of liquid manure where there is less than 24 inches of soil to bedrock. Large-scale dairies, or CAFOs, are already not allowed to spread manure on fields with less than 24 inches of soil before hitting bedrock, but small farms can do so.

“As part of the task force, I heard some of these ideas -- like the importance of soil depth above the bedrock if you plan to spread -- and wanted to share those ideas with other farmers so we jumped on that even before the report came out,” Niles said. 

Peninsula Pride has the support of multiple organizations including The Nature Conservatory and scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dennis Frame, who designed the country’s first Discovery Farms Program while at the UW, is helping Peninsula Pride Farms.

“Farmer-led watershed programs have a significant potential to protect water quality because recommendations are coming from people who understand farming and the challenges of making changes to a farming system,” said Frame, who also helped the Yahara Pride organization get off the ground. “This program can bring about dramatic positive changes to farming systems, and I believe that this has the potential, if given adequate time, to be a national model for farmer-led watershed projects.”

Aviation jobs: EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh will host a job fair to bring together aviation employers and job seekers throughout the event’s seven-day run.

The job fair will run daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. July 25-July 31 at AirVenture’s Aviation Gateway Park, a part of the event featuring education, innovation and technology. Previously, the job fair ran one day, but it was so successful that AirVenture organizers decided to expand it.

The fair will include companies ranging from airlines to avionics looking to fill their job openings. Worldwide, the industry employs more than 62.7 million, according to EAA’s latest statistics.

Belmark expansion:
Belmark, a De Pere-based converter of pressure sensitive labels, printed flexible packaging and folding cartons, plans to build a new facility in Shawano.

Construction on the 120,000-square-foot, $12 million facility is slated to start next spring, with full production starting by spring 2018. The new plant will include an estimated $24 million in equipment and plan to hire 35 workers when it opens. The number of employees is expected to grow to more than 120 within seven years.

The new Shawano plant will join the four production facilities on Belmark’s DePere campus.

-- Matzek, a freelance writer and editor, is the owner of 1Bizzy Writer. She has worked in the past as a news editor at Insight Publications and as business editor at the Appleton Post-Crescent.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Matzek: New CEO ready to guide Waupaca Foundry to more growth

By MaryBeth Matzek

As Mike Nikolai steps into the role of CEO at Waupaca Foundry, he plans to draw on his considerable experience with iron castings manufacturer where he started as a metallurgist in 1993.

“I’ve learned so much from those around me,” said Nikolai, who succeeds longtime president Gary Gigante. “Gary really showed me how we as a company need to continually improve our manufacturing excellence and efficiencies.”

The world’s largest foundry, Waupaca Foundry’s iron components appear on everything from Honda and Toyota cars and trucks to John Deere farm equipment.

Nikolai held several roles throughout the company including production manager and plant manager in Tell City, Ind., and plant manager at Etowah, Tenn. He also was the foundry’s vice president of operations before becoming president and chief operating officer last year. In addition to the main Waupaca plant and those in Indiana and Tennessee, Waupaca Foundry also has plant in Marinette.

His experience at other Waupaca Foundry facilities will help him moving forward, Nikolai said.

“You see how every site is different because of its location. That has really broadened my perspective and will help me as we look to continue growing and move in Mexico,” he said.

Waupaca Foundry was purchased in 2014 by Hitachi Metals Foundry America. Earlier this year, Waupaca Foundry announced it would merge with Hitachi Metals Automotive Components USA as part of a larger reorganization within the company. The move is designed to position the company to better meet customer demand.

“It’s definitely an exciting time for our business and we’re poised to grow even more as we will be able to offer our customers unprecedented access to metals technology and casting innovation,” Nikolai said.

While CEO, Gigante transformed Waupaca Foundry by introducing ductile iron production to the company and led it through two ownership changes. He also steered the foundry through the Great Recession by flexing the company’s production and staffing levels, helping Waupaca Foundry to grow even stronger.

“Our company was founded by entrepreneurs who fostered a culture of innovation,” he said. “I have had the pleasure of working with the best and most inventive foundry people in the business and I learned from all of them.”

As Nikolai transfers into his new role, he’s learning new things every day.

“When you take over your boss’ job, you find out all these things that he did that you had no idea about,” he said. “I hope to continue to learn from Gary and learn about all the nooks and crannies, just like he has.”

Airport unveils customs area: Appleton International Airport recently opened its new U.S. Customs & Border Protection area. The move means private international flights coming to Appleton will no longer need to stop elsewhere before coming to the airport.

The new facility will be able service planes with up to 20 passengers. The airport hopes that between 75 and 100 planes will use the facility in its first year and will continue to grow in years to come as more people know about it.

-- Matzek, a freelance writer and editor, is the owner of 1Bizzy Writer. She has worked in the past as a news editor at Insight Publications and as business editor at the Appleton Post-Crescent.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

MaryBeth Matzek: NOVO Health takes bundled health services directly to employers

By MaryBeth Matzek

Four Appleton specialty physician groups are teaming up to lower costs for employers.

The NOVO Health partnership works directly with employers, usually self-insured ones, to offer bundled care packages, charging one price for all services each procedure entails.

The idea to create the new, independent provider network came from area employers and local physicians, said NOVO CEO Curt Kubiak, who also leads Orthopedic & Sports Institute of the Fox Valley.

“We kept hearing we need better access at a lower price point,” he said, adding that OSI began offering bundled packages a couple of years ago. “We received a lot of positive feedback from that.”

NOVO Health brings together providers from Orthopedic & Sports Institute of the Fox Valley, Fox Valley Hematology & Oncology, Neuroscience Group and the NeuroSpine Center of Wisconsin.

It offers 48 different orthopedic and 12 spine procedures or surgeries as bundled packages. With the bundled pricing, each procedure – let’s say a knee replacement – includes a single bill for the facility fee, surgeon fee, anesthesia, an overnight stay in OSI’s skilled nursing facility and physical therapy.

Employers benefit since they know the price upfront and only receive one bill, said Bob Zuleger, NOVO Health’s’ vice president of business development.

Businesses sign a no-fee contract with NOVO that allows employers use the bundled pricing offerings as much or as little as they want. If a worker uses the bundled service, the employer makes payments through a third party claims processor and then that sum is forwarded to NOVO.

“NOVO is offered in addition to an employer’s regular health insurance, but it gives them the option of using the bundled pricing if they want to,” Kubiak said. “So many employers are moving to being self-insured and they’re going to have to pay either way and if they know we can do a certain procedure at this fixed price, they find that very attractive.”

Getting other independent medical providers interested in what OSI was doing wasn’t too difficult, Kubiak said.

He said the Fox Valley’s two independent practices that focus on spine services saw what OSI had done with its bundling process and appreciated the ease of doing surgery there rather than local hospitals. Fox Valley Hematology & Oncology, which built its own facility next to OSI last year, is in the process of developing bundled services.

“Business owners, corporations and municipalities all want to keep oncology costs as low as possible to benefit their businesses, employees and communities,” said Timothy Goggins, FVHO’s chief medical officer. “With this in mind, we feel NOVO Health allows us to engage with these entities and create alternative payment models that make sense."

The cost savings from using NOVO’s bundled services are substantial, Kubiak said.

“Since we’re smaller, we can be more nimble and innovative and offer something like this,” he said. “The concepts of what we’re doing – offering bundled services – are not unique, but pairing that with direct contracts is something I don’t think is being done elsewhere in the state.”

Azco makes a move: Azco, an employee-owned industrial construction and fabrication company in Appleton, has moved its headquarters into a former Institute of Paper Chemistry building near Lawrence University in downtown Appleton.

During the past year, the company saw unprecedented growth and wanted to bring together its corporate office and fabrication department under one roof. Two other Azco facilities in the Fox Valley will stay open, but the company did decide to sell its former corporate headquarters in the Town of Menasha.

New names, same hospitals: During the past month, two Fox Cities hospitals underwent a name change. Theda Clark Medical Center in Neenah is now ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah and Appleton Medical Center is ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Appleton. The name changes are part of the Appleton-based ThedaCare health system’s rebranding campaign that includes new names for its seven hospitals.

The name change “helps reinforce that ThedaCare is one system and we are all connected. We like to say we have one hospital – with seven locations,” said Brian Burmeister, senior vice president for ThedaCare Medical Centers.

During the past two years, ThedaCare has been changing its hospitals’ names. Once the hospitals in Berlin and Wild Rose change their names later this spring, the transformation will be complete.

-- Matzek, a freelance writer and editor, is the owner of 1Bizzy Writer. She has worked in the past as a news editor at Insight Publications and as business editor at the Appleton Post-Crescent.

Monday, March 7, 2016

MaryBeth Matzek: Three new cancer centers call Appleton home

By MaryBeth Matzek

Appleton is becoming a treatment destination location for those battling cancer, with three new cancer centers opening in the past nine months.

In the past, some patients might have traveled to Madison or Milwaukee for care. But that’s changing with the opening of two centers from ThedaCare and Fox Valley Hematology and Oncology, and the expansion of another from Ministry Health Care.

“The vision with the cancer center was to create a regional cancer destination and to be the premier location north of Madison and Milwaukee,” said Jenny Redman-Schell, a senior vice president at ThedaCare. “It’s more than just the building; it’s the high quality of care and services that patients can receive locally so there’s less need to travel.”

Last September, the specialists and physicians with Fox Valley Hematology and Oncology opened a 70,000-square-foot standalone, independent healthcare facility after seeing patients for 25 years at Appleton’s two hospitals, Appleton Medical Center and St. Elizabeth Hospital.

ThedaCare, which owns AMC, then opened the ThedaCare Regional Cancer Center in January, while Ministry Health Care opened an updated and expanded cancer center at St. Elizabeth Hospital. After the FVHO physicians left, ThedaCare hired its own oncologists to work at its cancer center while Ministry contracted with Green Bay Oncology to provide services at St. Elizabeth’s.

Redman-Schell, ThedaCare’s senior VP overseeing the areas of physician services, behavioral health and transitions of care and home, says AMC’s cancer center wasn’t large enough to meet patients’ needs. The expansive new center measures offers 84,000 square feet of space.

“There was a need for additional space as well as space for us to grow into since the way cancer is treated today is very different than it was 10 years ago. Who knows what it will be like 10 years from now?” she says. “The new center offers more choices for patients. For example, there is more room for treatments so patients can more easily have family members of friends sit with them. We also offer space that’s more private if they would prefer treatment in that type of surrounding.”

Located just off Interstate 41, ThedaCare’s Regional Cancer Center is adjacent to Encircle Health, an ambulatory care facility ThedaCare operates with partnering independent physicians. That connection means both facilities can use the same high-end imaging technologies for MRIs and PET scans.

“The center is a one-stop location for all the care someone with cancer may need. We not only have the radiation and chemotherapy, but also other services, such as having a social worker on staff and in the future bringing in financial counseling or other therapies, such as music therapy, in the future,” Redman-Schell says. “It’s also convenient and easy to reach.”

Fox Valley Hematology & Oncology Health & Wellness Center also provides services that 10 years ago no one would have ever thought of, says Dr. Timothy Goggins, FVHO’s chief medical officer. The center offers a wig salon, chiropractic care, counseling, massage therapy, acupuncture, support groups and yoga and “we continue to increase our services to meet our patients’ needs,” he says.

Also adjacent to Interstate 41, FVHO offers weekend hours for patients, who need hydration services, support therapy or chemotherapy treatments. Goggins says those services, especially hydration, can keep some patients from going to local emergency rooms if they’re suffering from dehydration due to their chemotherapy treatments.

Like its larger and freestanding counterparts, the 12,000-square-foot St. Elizabeth Cancer also offers patients a variety of services from traditional services including radiology and chemotherapy to complementary medical treatments, including reiki and massage therapy.

New Valley hospital?:
ThedaCare, the Fox Valley’s largest employer, announced it is looking at the idea of building a new regional hospital in the Fox Cities to replace both AMC and Theda Clark Medical Center in Neenah. Organization leaders say they will study the idea for the next couple of years before making a final decision. One leading reason for the new facility is the cost of retrofitting aging buildings with new technologies and saving money by eliminating the duplication of services.

While the Neenah and Appleton hospitals specialize in different areas – AMC for example focuses on cardiovascular care while Theda Clark focuses on stroke care – there is still duplication of services between the two locations, ThedaCare officials say.

Foundry merger:
Waupaca Foundry, Inc. is joining forces with Hitachi Metals Automotive Components USA LLC (HMAC). The merger is part of a larger reorganization within Hitachi Metals Foundry America, which owns both companies. Once the deal is complete, HMAC will become a division of Waupaca Foundry, but still use the HMAC name.

The merger will position the integrated organization for growth and help it to better meet customer demand, says Waupaca Foundry CEO Gary Gigante.

“The merger with HMAC allows us to further integrate castings and value added services for our customers in diverse markets,” he says. “We are committed to being the world’s leading casting solutions provider and this is a critical step in achieving that goal.”

Waupaca Foundry employs 3,900 at six manufacturing facilities, including three in Wisconsin and one each in Indiana and Tennessee.

-- Matzek, a freelance writer and editor, is the owner of 1Bizzy Writer. She has worked in the past as a news editor at Insight Publications and as business editor at the Appleton Post-Crescent.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Wendy Riemann: Advantageous Advocacy: Agree to disagree

A funny cartoon in The New Yorker last week featured two siblings yelling at each other, "You're a big, fat liar." "No, you're a big fat liar!" With the mom telling the dad, "You're the one who said, 'Let them watch the debates, it will be educational.'"

When we feel passionately about a topic, we can easily succumb to our emotions. It is why some families avoid discussing politics at the holiday table and why some Facebook friends won't engage in conversations about social issues online.

Groups traveling to the nation's capital to advocate for their cause are often filled with great energy and inspiring passion. They researched an issue and solutions, and are eager to bring about positive change.

Meeting with a staff person who does not share the group's opinion can be disheartening. Yet, as infuriating as that may be, and regardless of how right group members think they are, or how much someone pays in taxes, it is NOT appropriate to yell in a meeting. It is not professional. It does not benefit the cause. It diminishes the message. It often demonstrates an inflated ego with a lack of control; and quite frankly, it makes the person and the group look more like bullies and jerks rather than advocates an office wants as partners.

In my advocacy research, I surveyed high-level staff in dozens of Capitol Hill offices. Staff are accustomed to emotional constituents - it comes with the job. However, while infrequent, more than 50 percent of staff surveyed experienced being yelled at in a constituent meeting at levels far beyond a verbal disagreement.

Not one found the yelling productive or helpful. Several felt threatened.

In response, many staffers said they would never meet with that group again. Others said any future meeting would likely be delegated to a lower-level staff person. Neither of these outcomes is helpful in moving a cause forward.

Staff, are just that, staff. They are moms and dads, friends and relatives. Most are overworked, underpaid, and entered public service to make the world a better place.

So, don't shoot the messenger. Express your views, but do not make personal attacks, yell, or threaten. Find a way to agree to disagree.

That can actually be easier than expected because most elected officials have a voting record. If a group does its proper homework before a meeting, they should have facts and a general idea of where an official already stands on the issue. This knowledge is helpful in managing a group's expectations, setting a meeting goal - which may perhaps just be getting someone from against an issue to neutral - and remaining calm. Do not take staff asking questions or pointing out alternative facts and statistics as a personal attack. Listening to those comments can sometimes provide a better understanding of where the office stands and why, and may even lead to an opening for a group to calmly correct inaccurate information.

Since a group may need this office in the future, it is good to remember that there is some truth to the adage that you catch more flies with honey.

-- Riemann is president of 1492 Communications, a consulting firm. She can be reached at: wendy@1492communications.com.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Wendy Riemann: Advantageous Advocacy: Respecting time

Thomas Edison once said, “Time is really the only capital that any human being has, and the only thing he can't afford to lose.”

Most elected officials and government appointees would probably agree.

Time is a precious commodity, particularly in government service. Wasting it is neither appreciated nor easily forgotten. From the moment many officials step into their office (and sometimes before) until they leave, they can be booked back-to-back. If they have a great scheduler, they may get to eat lunch and take a few bathroom breaks on lighter days! Officials and appointees often do their reading, writing, genuine thinking, and “real work” outside of normal business hours because it is uninterrupted.

They are generally pleased to meet with constituent groups, however groups should always be respectful of time. On average, most groups receive around 15 to 30 minutes for a meeting, so it should be used advantageously. First, do not be late. It is disrespectful, may subconsciously indicate a lack of commitment to the cause, and can either back-up the official’s day or prevent the group from receiving the full meeting time.

A group’s poor organizational skills is no excuse for impacting someone else’s schedule. Prepare for security lines. Plan for getting lost. Add extra time for parking. Furthermore, a group running late should always call the office (with the number they kept readily available just in case of emergencies).

It is also a good idea to arrive a few minutes early, but not too early. Most government offices do not have much of a waiting area, if any, so lingering voices can become a distraction for the staff trying to work. When several busier Hill staff were asked about day-of requests to bump meeting times up, most preferred groups sticking with the original time. If a group wants to check if the meeting can be moved earlier – even if the meeting is with staff – calling or emailing is preferable to simply showing up.
With that said, prepare to wait. Hearings run long. Problems emerge (especially in state government). Things come up. Officials and appointees do not want to keep a group waiting any more than the group wants to be waiting. If this happens, and multiple meetings are on the group’s schedule, they should be prepared to divide up to avoid being late for other appointments.

Within meetings, Wisconsin Nice requires exchanging pleasantries, but it usually behooves groups to keep introductions short, such as highlighting constituents and explaining the purpose of the meeting. Some leaders will initiate with a “what brings you in today?” Others would love to discuss deer hunting or the Packers for 15 minutes and consider the meeting a success, especially if the alternative topic is not as appealing. The group must remember their meeting’s purpose and help guide the conversation when needed.
To stay on point and time, groups may find working from a prepared agenda helpful, even if they do not share it.

Finally, recognize when the meeting is over. If a staff person gives any cues, the scheduler walks in and out, or the voting bell rings, wrap it up. If the official wants more, they will indicate it. If the scheduler or aide makes a second move, close faster – even consider standing. Trust the staff – they play the bad cop role for a reason.

We all have 24 hours in our day. When an official or appointee makes time for a group, that is time they could be spending doing something else, so respect it by planning ahead and making the meeting worth everyone’s time.

-- Riemann is president of 1492 Communications, a consulting firm. She can be reached at: wendy@1492communications.com.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Wendy Riemann: Advantageous Advocacy: Honesty is the best policy

WASHINGTON, DC -- Honesty is the best policy... really. At home. At work. When advocating.

Whether it’s an outright lie, a lie by omission, a lie because you didn’t do your homework, or a lie of plausible deniability, where you think the onus should be on the government worker to ultimately fact-check you – it is usually found out – and will sink your efforts.

Little secret: many government offices talk -- even across party lines -- especially in Wisconsin offices where that whole “Midwestern Nice” thing is legit. Staff members form an informal, bipartisan club of sorts and frequently exchange information and questions. While partisan-based anger may be the prevailing attitude across the country right now, most staff, on both sides of the aisle are still diplomatic public servants eager to get the job done and get it done right.

Once a lobbyist came in to see me on behalf of a cause and swore a certain member of Congress was supportive – even said that representative was absolutely endorsing it at an upcoming hearing. My gut told me the lobbyist's issue and the member’s position were probably not on the same page. When the lobbyist left, I picked up the phone, called the member’s aide and asked the office position. That’s when I was told, “No, we made it clear we’re not endorsing it at all. We simply said we could, and would, ask a neutral question on it in the hearing."

Was this a misunderstanding between the lobbyist and the congressional office? Perhaps. But the reason I immediately called to check was because that lobbyist had already lost credibility with me on a similar issue in the past. At this point, ALL credibility was lost, with me, as well as with the member’s aide, who was not surprised this lobbyist was given an inch and tried to sell it for a mile. Two battleships sunk. Oh, and that issue also needed Senate committee support. The Senate committee person responded with, “Yeah, I fact-check everything [lobbyist name] says. I don’t understand why people keep hiring [lobbyist name].”

Three battleships sunk. Two political parties. One lobbyist and a cause that would not be moving quickly.

Government employees many times feel compelled to accept a meeting, at least once, with a lobbyist or group on an issue, whether they like said lobbyist or not (and contrary to what some in the public may believe, most lobbyists that I have encountered are good, honest people with a reasonable cause). What is more, Hill staff often take several meetings with a group. However, that does not mean an aide is always going to encourage or invite the boss to join the meeting, or that the aide will bend over backward to help them if the lobbyist is not trusted. Once credibility is lost, well, that ship has sailed.

I still needed to meet with that lobbyist on other issues. But I no longer gave the benefit of the doubt – only doubt. The trust-but-verify attitude I had when we first met, was now just verify, even when I wanted to engage on the issue.

Bottom line: successful advocacy takes time and requires building relationships and earning trust. It is a marathon, not a sprint, so never, ever, lie. If you unintentionally misrepresent a situation or fact, correct it immediately in the meeting, with a follow-up email, or pick up the phone. If you burn one office, word will spread. Credibility will be ruined with more than one person, and where does that leave you and your issue? Sunk.

-- Riemann is president of 1492 Communications, a consulting firm. She can be reached at: wendy@1492communications.com.

Monday, February 1, 2016

MaryBeth Matzek: Dairy industry looks to angels

By MaryBeth Matzek
Angel investors could be a catalyst to fund innovation in the dairy industry.

That’s an idea put forward by a team from the UW-Madison’s Department of Dairy Science, Robert W. Baird & Co. Inc. and Bunker Labs. Those groups debuted the idea during Dairy Strong 2016: Partners in Progress, an industry event held last month in Madison.

When Stacy Williams and another colleague from Baird attended Dairy Strong in 2015, they saw the potential to gather financial support from both within and outside the dairy industry to fund industry innovations. They then spent the past year thinking about ways to do just that and meeting with people to see if the idea is possible. Williams thinks it is and hopes a fund dedicated to financing industry innovation is up and running by this time next year.

“We’re just starting a dialogue now with the dairy industry and others to see what the interest could be in something like this,” she says. “What’s different about this from some other investment concepts out there is that the potential investors would be the ones to benefit the most from the discoveries.”

While Wisconsin is weak in venture capital funding compared to other states, it is a national leader in angel investing and is already home to an innovative investment model in the BrightStar Wisconsin Foundation. The not-for-profit foundation accepts charitable donations to an evergreen fund that then makes equity investments in early-stage companies.

Michael Ertmer of Bunker Labs thinks something similar to BrightStar could be started for the ag industry.

“What we’re proposing is unique -- invest before a company is even formed,” the group’s executive director says. “The current models of investing in research aren’t working the best.”

Heather White, a UW dairy science professor, says it’s all about creating a competitive advantage for Wisconsin and the state’s dairies. Right now, she says other states are investing more heavily in research, whether it comes from industry check-offs or through direct industry support of endowed faculty positions.

“In the current way of doing things, too much time is spent by faculty chasing funds, which slows research productivity,” White says. “We need a major reinvestment to revitalize dairy production and animal production so we can get quicker flow from idea to application.”

White says creating and managing researchers’ intellectual property will be an advantage to all Wisconsin farmers since the time from developing an idea to commercial implementation will be shorter.

“I can also see this as a great way to attract and retain graduate students and researchers” in Wisconsin, White says.

Another possibility is to piggy-back on BrightStar and have an ag-focused fund within that organization, Ertmer says.

“There’s a lot of different ideas and models out there about how we might work it and do the funding, whether it’s a progressive phase model or something else,” he says. “The dairy industry would have input into the problems being looked at and they would be the ones to benefit.”

Williams has already reached out to the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, which would help with patent development, and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. Both organizations have shown interest. The next step is to see if individuals or businesses are interested in investing. “We’re still in the exploratory stage, but it’s very exciting,” she says.

Continued high-tech growth:
The Fond du Lac metro area was ranked 8th out of 201 small U.S. metros by the Milken Institute in 2015 for five-year growth in the category of high technology Gross Domestic Products. In 2014, the area ranked 34th out of 179 metro areas.

Local business leaders say the ranking shows a strong and steady growth in high-technology processes being used to produce goods and services. Manufacturing remains strong in Fond du Lac, which is driving that growth, but other industry sectors are also using more technology in their business operations, says Steve Jenkins, president of the Fond du Lac County Economic Development Corp.

Long shipping season: The 2015 shipping season on the Bay of Green Bay came to an end Jan. 15, making it the second longest shipping system on record. An early start and late end to the season -- thanks to ideal weather conditions -- and an improving economy helped the port take in 1.97 million metric tons of cement, coal, limestone, petroleum products and salt. That’s down from the 2.3 million metric tons that came through the Port in 2014, says Dean Haen, Brown County Port and Resource Recovery director. But he added anything close to 2 million tons is still a very successful year for shipping.

-- Matzek, a freelance writer and editor, is the owner of 1Bizzy Writer. She has worked in the past as a news editor at Insight Publications and as business editor at the Appleton Post-Crescent.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Wendy Riemann: Advantageous Advocacy: An introduction

WASHINGTON, DC -- “We gave the Hill our bill language during our fly-in last year, and the Representative introduced it, so why isn’t it law yet,” the leader of the group asked me in genuine frustration.

The leader did not realize that in the 113th Congress, January 3, 2013 – January 2, 2015, a total of 10,637 bills and resolutions were introduced, and only 296, or a mere 3 percent, were enacted
into law, according to GovTrack. In the 114th Congress, starting January 6, 2015 until January 15, 2016, a total of 7,993 bills and resolutions had been introduced, with 115, or 1 percent, enacted into law. As the Schoolhouse Rock video, “I’m Just a Bill,” reminds us, the vast majority of bills introduced in Congress never even get a committee hearing, let alone actually become law.

It was experiences like this one that compelled me to create this column.

During the past decade of working at various levels of government, I observed countless businesses, groups, and associations advocating a cause and lobbying on legislation. Sometimes it was done well and led to the launch of a governor’s initiative, or resulted in a bill becoming a law, or caused language in a proposed federal rule to be withdrawn. Other times, I privately shook my head in disbelief as a group was not invited back or witnessed an issue fade quickly because of poor advocacy.

Last October, I left Gov. Scott Walker's D.C. office after more than four years as Wisconsin’s director of federal relations. Prior to that, I spent time on Capitol Hill, at a federal agency, and in Florida’s governor’s office. I have been lobbied a lot. I have friends and co-workers who have been lobbied even more than me, and I’ve listened to many of their experiences. In so many cases, better communication and interaction would have led to much better outcomes.

This column's primary goal is to help readers become more successful in communicating and advocating their message to government offices.

Twice each month I will share messages about honesty always being the best policy, the importance of the FUP (What’s a FUP? You’ll need to read!), timeliness, thank you notes, some D.C. nuts and bolts, and more.

Advantageous Advocacy is not a gossip column, so I will never, ever “out” anyone, but I hope we will all grow from various examples.

If you have experiences or comments you would like to share – good or bad – please do.

-- Riemann is president of 1492 Communications, a consulting firm. She can be reached at: wendy@1492communications.com.


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

MaryBeth Matzek: Northwest Enterprise Network aids entrepreneurs

By MaryBeth Matzek
The state's largest business incubator isn't in Milwaukee, or even in Madison for that matter. Nestled in the far northwest corner of Wisconsin, the Northwest Enterprise Center Network covers more space than any other by offering 10 business incubator spaces in six different communities.

"It's one of the largest incubator programs in the country and it's right here in northwest Wisconsin," says Rick Roeser, the center's program manager.

The network was launched by the Northwest Regional Planning Commission in 1998 when the first incubator opened. Since then, other locations have been added. Each one – they're located in Spooner, Grantsburg, Iron River, Medford, Phillips and Siren – features modern, flexible spaces that businesses can reconfigure to meet their needs.

The majority of businesses in the incubators are manufacturing focused, particularly plastics and tool and die.

"The network's purpose is to provide the necessary resources to enhance technology-based business development that add economic diversification and strength within the region by creating high-skill, high-wage jobs" and the companies housed in the incubator are creating those types of jobs, Roeser says.

Dental Metrics Laboratory in Iron River is one of the newest tenants to call the center home and owner Merlyn Coy said his company would not have gotten off the ground without its help.

"Without them, my business wouldn't exist," he says. "Not only did it provide me with a physical space for my business, but everyone has been so helpful from helping me develop a business plan and flush out ideas to just being able to walk out my door and talk to other entrepreneurs to see how they dealt with an issue."

Coy founded Dental Metrics, which uses digital imaging, 3D printers and CNC manufacturing equipment to produce metal-free dental restoration products, because he grew tired of driving to Duluth. "It was a long commute and I wanted to do something like that here," he says. "I had a friend who was in one of the incubators and it turned out to be a great fit."

Beyond just providing space, the incubator provides resources to help businesses get up and running. From working with entrepreneurs on their business plans to helping them secure financing, there's multiple ways the Northwest Enterprise Center Network can lend a hand, Roeser says.

"The enterprise centers are just one tool in the tool box of helping businesses," Roeser says. "If you are going to help businesses grow and expand, you need the right pieces."

To date, more than 40 companies have used the incubators and more than 370 jobs have been created. Roeser says $42.2 million in private investments have also been made as a result of the incubators being in place.

"We believe we can grow our own successful businesses and that's a great way to build the overall economy," he says. "It's also a way to diversify the economy and the types of jobs we have here."

Bank growth

When County Bancorp Inc. went public earlier this year, one of the goals was to grow the holding company for Manitowoc's Investor Community Bank so it could grow through acquisition. That plan paid off when County Bancorp recently announced it had entered into an agreement to merge with Fox River Valley Bancorp Inc.

The move gives Investors branches in the key markets of Green Bay and Appleton. The purchase price is about $28.9 million. The new combined financial institution will have more than $1 billion in assets and County will be the sixth largest exchange trade bank holding company headquartered in Wisconsin.

Read more on Investors Community Bank in a recent column from Matzek

Expo center gets approval

After years of discussion and months of debate among Appleton City Council members, Appleton will finally get an expo center. Appleton officials recently signed the papers to spend $2 million to buy land from Outagamie County for the expo, which will be connected to the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel.

In recent weeks, 10 Fox Cities communities voted to approve an extra room tax to offset the building costs of the $30 million-plus facility. Construction could begin next summer.

The Radisson will manage the expo center for the city and handle operations costs. The center is expected to generate $6.5 million annually in visitor spending, according to a 2014 market analysis.
-- Matzek, a freelance writer and editor, is the owner of 1Bizzy Writer. She has worked in the past as a news editor at Insight Publications and as business editor at the Appleton Post-Crescent.


Monday, November 23, 2015

MaryBeth Matzek: BrightStar another funding option for start-ups

By MaryBeth Matzek

It's no secret Wisconsin start-ups have a challenging time finding investors. The Badger State consistently ranks low on surveys related to angel investing and venture capitalists. But that didn't deter Tom Shannon, who decided to take advantage of the state's rich philanthropic history to help early-stage, rapid-growth companies.

The result is the BrightStar Wisconsin Foundation – a non-profit organization that invests in start-ups.

"If you want a vibrant economy, you need job creation and these start-ups have the power to create jobs," says Shannon, who donates his time as BrightStar's president and CEO. "We have a great university system in Wisconsin, we have lots of people with great ideas, but we don't have enough money to get those ideas off the ground."

Shannon formulated the idea for BrightStar after seeing state budget dollars for investment in Wisconsin startups cut, including the elimination of all biotech firms from consideration. To get the ball rolling, he and seven other initial investors put up $5 million of their own funds to start the foundation.

"Seeing that money cut from the budget really irritated me so I went to the WEDC to see if we got a foundation if they would help us fund staff," he says. "We're unique. I don't know of anything else like this in the country. People have approached me about how we've done it so I think the idea will spread elsewhere."

A former director of the Wisconsin Angel Network, Shannon has an impressive business background. He's a lead investor in several companies and was the CEO of Prodesse Inc., a biotech firm until it was sold Gen-Probe Inc. in 2009 for $72 million.

BrightStar has invested more than $3.76 million in 26 companies since it received nonprofit status from the Internal Revenue Service in February 2014. Investments range in size from $50,000 to $250,000.

"We don't lead deals. We work with other organizations and rely on their due diligence and take that information our investment committee," Shannon says. "Our goal is to help provide the necessary funds to get the deal done." Shannon says he often uses a donor's interest in education to gain their support for BrightStar.

"There are a lot of people in Wisconsin who give to education and I view this as the next step – creating jobs so the young people we're educating stay here and help us grow our state," Shannon says. "The donors don't expect the money back. All money made on deals gets invested right back into the foundation to help us create more jobs. They also get that tax break."

Some BrightStar donors are interested in helping early-stage businesses, but aren't interested in angel investing because of the expected involvement.

"I'm an angel investor and there are things you need to do, papers to sign and these people aren't interested in that," he says.

Through some of its investments, BrightStar has accumulated $300,000 in Qualified New Business Venture credits. As a non-profit, it can't take advantage of the credits so Shannon says BrightStar is looking to sell them to individuals or companies and then invest those funds to keep the foundation growing.

"Everything we do is about furthering early-stage investment and creating jobs," he says.

Increased SBA dollars

Another resource for businesses looking for funding – the Small Business Administration – saw the amount of dollars loaned to Wisconsin businesses increase 12 percent during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.

A total of 1,733 small state businesses used SBA-guaranteed funds to grow or start their companies. Loan approvals for the SBA's 7(a) and 504 programs totaled $607.6 million, up from the $542.4 million loaned to 1,674 businesses in fiscal 2014.

Of the loans given out in the most recent year, 35.5 percent went to 618 new businesses. In addition, more than 60 percent of loans were $150,000 or less as borrowers took advantage of a program that drops fees for loans under that amount.

-- Matzek, a freelance writer and editor, is the owner of 1Bizzy Writer. She has worked in the past as a news editor at Insight Publications and as business editor at the Appleton Post-Crescent.


Thursday, October 22, 2015

MaryBeth Matzek: Technology connects consumers and farmers

By MaryBeth Matzek
Madhavi Krishnan calls herself as a computer scientist who loves food, but she's actually an entrepreneur shaking up how people can buy food in Madison and surrounding communities.

Krishnan, a former Epic employee, launched Square Harvest last spring as a place where farmers and other food producers connect directly with consumers via a website. The site lists what farmers have for sale and consumers pick out what they want. Farmers and other producers – think bakers, cheesemakers and meat producers – drop off the ordered items on Friday at a warehouse where it's sorted and then delivered to customers free of charge on Saturdays.

"It's all about keeping food dollars local," says Krishnan, who spoke last week at the Wisconsin Innovation Network-Northeast Chapter's meeting in Appleton as part of a broader look at the intersection of food and technology. "It's a farm-to-table grocer. Consumers are interested in fresh food and farmers have that fresh food, but it's not always easier to connect. This is a lot easier than standing in a farm market stand somewhere."

Krishnan views her business as a complement to CSAs, which she called a "mystery box – you never know what's inside. We get a lot of orders in after people get their boxes."

She started Square Harvest in March with 10 farmers. That number is now up to 70. "We have low overhead and the food is fresh as fresh can be," Krishnan says.

"Fresh" and "local" are key words with consumers now when it comes to food, says Theresa Feiner, an economic development specialist with the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. "We're definitely seeing a shift in consumer preferences, especially among millennials," she says. "They want transparency in their food."

Square Harvest is just one example of what Wisconsin businesses and farmers are doing to adapt to this new marketplace, Feiner, says. For example, Roundy's buys produce from local farmers through the Food Hub Cooperative and then sells it at its grocery stores.

"Businesses see the value in investing in local produce," she says.

Just as Krishnan leveraged technology, in her case a software program, others are doing the same to bring changes to the food supply chain, Feiner says. "Technology plays a role in everything from using robotics on the farm to feed and milk the cows to how technology is used in food production and processing," she says. "It's everywhere."

It all plays into how the ag industry is changing in Wisconsin, says Daniel Smith, DATCP's administrator for agriculture development. His department works with farmers throughout Wisconsin to grow and promote agriculture.

"We really want to help farmers be successful. We want to protect our ag diversity, protect our resources and bring in funding resources," he says. "We work with farmers on a variety of issues, from dealing with regulations to succession issues."

As for Krishnan, she's preparing for Square Harvest's first winter, which she admits will be interesting since Wisconsin can't grow crops year-round outdoors. Some veggies grown via hydroponics will be featured as will be some stored crops.

"We're just starting out and have a lot of room to grow," she says. "I haven't looked for capital yet, but I probably will soon. The Madison area has been supportive of us. It's been very exciting."

Incubator moves ahead

The city of River Falls, River Falls Economic Development Corporation, UW-River Falls, and the Chippewa Valley Technical College have received a $1.4 million grant to construct a business incubator to serve the St. Croix Valley region.

The U.S. Economic Development Administration Investments for Public Works and Economic Development Facilities grant will fund the creation and construction of the St. Croix Valley Business Incubator, which will open next fall.

Funding sources for the project include the $1.4 million U.S. EDA grant, a $250,000 grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and a commitment from partners to cover administration and infrastructure costs. The multi-use facility will be designed as a hybrid entrepreneurial center, housing 24 small or start-up businesses and offering business incubation, workforce training and business acceleration services. UW-River Falls will provide a director for the facility.

-- Matzek, a freelance writer and editor, is the owner of 1Bizzy Writer. She has worked in the past as a news editor at Insight Publications and as business editor at the Appleton Post-Crescent.


Friday, October 16, 2015

MaryBeth Matzek: R.A. Smith takes to the (unmanned) air to view job sites

By MaryBeth Matzek
R.A. Smith National employees have a new resource they can deploy on its engineering and surveying jobs -- drones.

Also known as unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVs, drones are "another surveying tool in our tool belt," says Jon Chapman, a 3D laser scanning manager with the Brookfield-based engineering, surveying and technical services consulting company.

Earlier this month, R.A. Smith received the Section 333 exemption and is already putting UAV to use on job sites. "We hit the ground running," Chapman says.

R.A. Smith is one of few Wisconsin companies to receive the Section 333 exemption from the FAA. Under this rule, companies can operate UAVs under 200 feet in the air only during daylight and stay in the operator's line of sight. In addition, a licensed pilot must operate the controls of the UAV.

Nationwide, the FAA has approved 1,783 Section 333 exemptions.

In R.A. Smith's case, Chapman says the company has found plenty of uses for UAVs on jobs by taking advantage of their ability to fly over sites and photograph what they see.

"We do a lot of volume metric surveying, such as checking company's stockpiles and seeing how much they have of a certain product. Previously, we would have someone go out and walk on the pile and take lots of photos of it," he says. "Now, we can fly a UAV over it and take a bunch of photos without putting an employee out in what may be an area that's difficult to reach and hard to walk around."

Those images are then run through a photometric process to determine the volume total.

Another example is when R.A. Smith is hired to inspect silt fences on building sites. Previously, an employee would have to walk the entire site and take photographs. Now with the UAV, the drone can do it all from the air, saving time.

"The more we keep using the UAV, the more ways we discover how we can use it," Chapman says. "It's very exciting."

Clean sweep

Three cows from MilkSource Genetics of Freedom made history earlier this month at the 2015 World Dairy Expo in Madison. Three different breeds from the same farm captured grand champion honors in their respective classes – something that hasn't happened at the expo before.

A Holstein cow was named supreme champ while a Jersey cow was named reserve supreme champ. A red and white Holstein also earned grand champion honors.

MilkSource Genetics also was named premier exhibitor and premier breeder of the Red & White Show and premier exhibitor of the Holstein Show.

Boosting the rural economy

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded 10 grants worth $575,000 to help support start-ups and expansions at rural small businesses. The grants range from the $99,999 awarded to the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council in Lac Du Flambeau to provide technical assistance to Native American business owners in eight Wisconsin tribes to $21,000 to Easter Seals Wisconsin in Madison for a program that works one-on-one with disabled entrepreneurs to evaluate their self-employment ideas and plans for start-up businesses.

The USDA awards the grants through the Rural Business Development Grant Program. See a full list of the Wisconsin grants.

-- Matzek, a freelance writer and editor, is the owner of 1Bizzy Writer. She has worked in the past as a news editor at Insight Publications and as business editor at the Appleton Post-Crescent.


Thursday, October 8, 2015

MaryBeth Matzek: State start-ups can get a boost from UW-Oshkosh's InventureXcel

By MaryBeth Matzek
Wisconsin start-ups looking for help in making the next step have a new resource – InventureXcel, a new program offered through UW-Oshkosh.

This free business boot camp program will be held over three weekends during the month of November. InventureXcel is designed to provide entrepreneurs with customized curriculum focused on customer validation, executive summaries and elevator pitches with access to a mentor network of industry experts, says program director Kim Biedermann.

"We're limiting it to five start-ups so we can really tailor the program to their needs," she says. "We're hoping that once they come through this program they'll be ready for a business accelerator or another similar program to keep advancing their idea forward."

Shelby Smykal, accelerator coordinator at the UW-Oshkosh Business Success Center, says the InventureXcel participants will work on putting together a well-written executive summary that they can present to potential investors about their business idea.

"A business plan is important, but a lot of investors just want that summary and want to understand what the business is," she says. "We'll also work on putting together an effective elevator speech since that is key when connecting with investors."

Biedermann says offering the program on weekends made sense since many entrepreneurs are working regular jobs and can't take time away during the week to work on their business idea.

"This program provides them time to focus on their idea and what they need to do to get it to the next stage," she says.

Biedermann says the university has multiple resources available to help entrepreneurs and offering the boot camp is one way to let people know what's all available. "We play an important economic development role in the community. We want to help grow and support businesses since that contributes to more economic growth," she says.

Smykal is eager to see the ideas that boot camp participants will bring in. "It will be exciting to hear their plans and figure out how we can help them," she says.

For more on the program, visit inventurexcel.com .

Shawano manufacturer sold

Novolex has purchased Wisconsin Film & Bag, one of Shawano's largest manufacturers.

Wisconsin Film & Bag makes polyethylene bags and films and employs about 175.

Novolex, which is based in Hartsville, S.C., and is a Wind Point Partners company that serves the retail, grocery, food service, industrial and hospitality markets, plans to incorporate Wisconsin Film & Bag's products into its custom film and bag brand, Novolex said in a statement announcing the purchase.

Special Lambeau tax ends

The extra 0.5 percent sales tax in Brown County created in 2000 to fund renovations at Lambeau Field ended Sept. 30.

The Green Bay/Brown County Professional Football Stadium District, which administered the tax proceeds, said the extra sales tax had reached its goal.

In 2000, Brown County voters approved the special tax to pay for $160 million in bonding for the $295 million renovation of Lambeau Field in 2003. It was also designed to fund the Green Bay Packers with a capped amount of operations and maintenance reimbursements annually through 2031. Through the end of September, the tax had raised $300.3 million.

-- Matzek, a freelance writer and editor, is the owner of 1Bizzy Writer. She has worked in the past as a news editor at Insight Publications and as business editor at the Appleton Post-Crescent.


Friday, October 2, 2015

MaryBeth Matzek: Project G.R.I.L.L. heats up interest in manufacturing jobs

By MaryBeth Matzek
Getting high school students interested in manufacturing careers can be a hard sell. A Sheboygan County program, however, is changing that by showing students that manufacturing careers are rewarding and utilize the latest technology.

Project G.R.I.L.L. (Growing Readiness In Learning and Leading) pairs high school students with manufacturing companies to build a customized grill from scratch. The students earn up to nine technical college credits and get an up-close look at manufacturing careers. Participating companies benefit from the knowledge that by exposing more students to career options in manufacturing they may be recruiting future workers.

Project G.R.I.L.L pairs eight manufacturers with eight high schools to build a charcoal grill that will successfully cook 12 Johnsonville brats at one time within an hour of being lit. (Johnsonville is based in Sheboygan County after all). With 40 percent of all Sheboygan County jobs tied to manufacturing, encouraging more students to consider it as a career path is important, says Keith Anderson, chair of Project G.R.I.L.L. and a technical training manager at Masters Gallery Food Inc.

"We're looking our next employees and this gets them in here and see what we do," he says. "Students have to do everything from contacting the companies to get the ball rolling, to working on the design and the building the grill."

The students and companies decide together where the grill will end up, whether it's the business, the school or on the auction block to raise money for the program, Anderson says. "The grill itself is just the vehicle, it's all the stuff along the way that they'll learn is the huge part," he says. "They're learning about soft skills and teamwork."

Project G.R.I.L.L. started 10 years ago in Sheboygan County as a partnership between manufacturers, local schools and Lakeshore Technical College. A similar program is in place in Fond du Lac County and the Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce launched its program this year.

Through the 30-week program, Anderson says students get a firsthand look at what it takes to take an idea from concept to completion.

"We've seen students who have gone through the program enter careers in manufacturing, whether it's as an engineer, an operator or come here directly after high school," Anderson says. "We're showing students that our manufacturing facilities are bright places and it's a vibrant, constantly changing atmosphere. These aren't boring jobs."

This past summer, Project G.R.I.L.L. received a $4,500 AT&T Innovation & Investment Award to help fund the program. It's also being recognized next month by the Northeast Wisconsin Manufacturing Alliance with a community partnership award at its annual Excellence in Manufacturing/K-12 Partnership Awards.

"One of my goals is to get more students involved in these programs," he says. "We're always trying to get better."

Manufacturing growth

Programs like Project G.R.I.L.L. and others like it that boost interest in manufacturing are essential as the number of state manufacturing jobs grow and baby boomers – who make up the largest segment of the skilled manufacturing workforce – begin to retire.

From July 2014 to July 2015, Wisconsin added 6,516 manufacturing jobs, an increase of 1.1 percent, according to the 2016 Wisconsin Manufacturers Register, an industrial database.

This is the fourth year in a row that the number of Wisconsin manufacturing jobs increased, according to the report. The state has 10,694 manufacturers who employ 572,189 workers. Since 2011, the state has added 18,568 workers, an increase of 3.3 percent.

Spurring growth

The Water Technology District in Milwaukee has generated $211.6 million in economic development since 2012 when the Walker Point area became an epicenter of water technology and freshwater research.

The analysis by The Water Council, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee focused on the impact of investments related to water technology and their associated actions from 2012 to 2014.

Property values in the water district increased 16.6 percent while property values overall in the City of Milwaukee decreased 11.1 percent.

-- Matzek, a freelance writer and editor, is the owner of 1Bizzy Writer. She has worked in the past as a news editor at Insight Publications and as business editor at the Appleton Post-Crescent.


Thursday, September 24, 2015

MaryBeth Matzek: UW-Oshkosh debuts indoor garden for dining services

By MaryBeth Matzek
The UW-Oshkosh has made a name for itself with its sustainability initiatives, which helped it make the list of the top five "greenest" universities compiled by BestColleges.org earlier this year.

Tower Gardens, a vertical gardening system, is the latest example of the college's sustainability culture. Located in Blackhawk Commons, the campus' main dining hall, the new gardening system features three towers, which have so far been used to grow chard, lettuce and herbs that are being used right in the dining hall, says Marty Strand, assistant director of dining services at UW-Oshkosh.

"I had been looking awhile for a way that we could bring a garden inside and I came upon this idea and then talked with a friend who uses it at Ripon College and everything just clicked," he says.

Tower Gardens are standing habitats for plants that use aeroponics, a plant cultivation technique, to grow food at a faster rate than in a conventional garden, Strand says. The tower works by pumping Tower Tonic, a liquid plant nutrient mixture, up the tower and then cascading it over the plant roots. He says this provides the plants with ample oxygen, nutrients and water.

The gardening systems were installed over the summer and students already are reaping their benefits.

"We don't use any soil and it was fairly easy to put together," Strand says. "We've also purchased some light kits that run on a timer to make sure they get enough light. It will be nice to have something blooming in the middle of winter."

The gardens are a visible reminder to students and visitors about the college's sustainability initiatives, Strand says. "This really puts out there our sustainability efforts. They can see the plants growing and it's already spreading through word-of-mouth that we're using what we're growing in our dishes," he says.

So far, Strand says herbs have been the biggest success since the college is able to grow them cheaper than what it would cost to purchase them. In the future, he says some vegetables, such as tomatoes and peppers, may also be grown.

"The gardens are really neat and it's been a great way to talk up sustainability and local food sourcing," Strand says. "They should pay for themselves within two years."

New Shawano hospital unites healthcare services at one location

After more than 82 years of providing care from the same location, Shawano's hospital has a new home and name.

Last week, Shawano Medical Center transitioned its patients and services to the new $52 million ThedaCare Medical Center-Shawano. The new hospital sits adjacent to the existing ThedaCare Physicians-Shawano clinic, creating an integrated medical campus for area residents.

"We were split before with services at different locations," says hospital CEO Dorothy Erdmann. "The single campus creates more convenience for patients and physicians. Physicians can get to their patients quicker and there's no running back and forth. I think before about a pregnant woman coming in to see her doctor and if the baby had to be delivered, it was then a trip across town. Now, you go right next door."

In designing the new hospital, Erdmann says ThedaCare worked closely with community members to create an inviting facility with lots of natural light and views of nature that also celebrates the area's diverse population (more than 20 percent of patients are Native Americans).

The 128,000-square-foot hospital's patient care units are served by four separate nursing hubs that each serve a small number of patient rooms. The clinic and hospital share services such as lab facilities and imaging areas.

"We really worked with the community in developing the hospital and making it a welcoming place," Erdmann says. "We're replacing a hospital that has stood for more than 80 years. We wanted to do it right. We had a public open house last week and had an amazing turnout and people were very complimentary."

The new hospital is also home to a unique nurse education center – a 5,000-square-foot area operated by the hospital and Northeast Wisconsin Technical College. The shared learning space will be used by 60 NWTC nursing students annually and ThedaCare staff members will also be able to use the space for training. It's the first one like it in Wisconsin.

NWTC President Jeffrey Rafn says the space will allow nurses to train in a community health care setting and "to train nurses exactly where they are needed."

Erdmann, who helped develop a similar program at a hospital where she worked in Minnesota, says she is excited about the onsite training facility. "This is going to be great not only for the nursing students, but also for our community as well," she says. "Our staff will also benefit from having this educational and training space available."

-- Matzek, a freelance writer and editor, is the owner of 1Bizzy Writer. She has worked in the past as a news editor at Insight Publications and as business editor at the Appleton Post-Crescent.


Friday, September 18, 2015

MaryBeth Matzek: Sheboygan dairy invests in new technology to deal with manure

By MaryBeth Matzek
Wisconsin is home to a lot of cows and, unfortunately, that means a lot of manure. But farmers across the state are looking to a variety of solutions to help manage it.

Under rules from the Department of Natural Resources, all farms with more than 1,000 animal units need to file a management plan with the state to address how they'll deal with manure. New technology is providing more options to farmers. For example earlier this year, Shiloh Dairy near Brillion in Calumet County put in a system that converts manure to potable water and nutrients that can be used as fertilizer and now Majestic Meadows Dairy in Sheboygan Falls is installing a first-of-its-kind fully integrated manure management system.

Digested Organics LLC began construction over the summer at Majestic Meadows on a new integrated manure management system, which will process 20,000 gallons of manure per day, effectively harvesting energy through biogas generation, concentrating nutrients for more targeted crop use, and reclaiming clean water for farm use and surface water discharge. The goal is to have it operational before the World Dairy Expo later this month in Madison.

"We had been looking at manure treatment systems for years, but we just couldn't get comfortable with either the technology or the costs involved," says Dean Strauss, managing partner and co-owner of the Majestic Meadows Dairy. "Digested Organic's solution is the right fit for our farm, allowing us to concentrate key nutrients for our crops into substantially less volume at a competitive operating cost – that means getting manure trucks off the road and reduced hauling costs."

Strauss also liked that the system is highly automated and has a small footprint. "It's environmentally sustainable – something that's important to us and our community," he says.

Chris Maloney, Digested Organic's chief operating officer, says the system being installed combines a high efficiency/low residence time anaerobic digester with a highly automated ultrafiltration and reverse osmosis system that concentrates nutrients into 30 percent of the original manure volume while recovering about 70 percent of the original volume as clean water suitable for drinking water for the animals, washing and flushing on the farm or direct discharge to local waterways with DNR approval.

Airport property 'development ready'

More than 33 acres of land at Austin Straubel International Airport, just west of Green Bay, has been designated a Certified in Wisconsin development-ready site by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.

The certification gives site selectors and business owners confidence knowing that building plans will not be held up by costly delays in permitting and approvals, says Airport Director Tom Miller.

"The parcels owned by Austin Straubel offer prime locations for many types of businesses looking to locate or expand in Brown County," he says. "With WEDC's certification, we now have the opportunity to draw more attention to the commercial opportunities available next to one of Wisconsin's premier transportation hubs."

The Certified In Wisconsin Program, which was launched in 2012, provides potential tenants with all the information needed to make quick decisions about whether that site is right for their needs, such as utility and transportation infrastructure, environmental assessments and quality of labor force. WEDC markets the certified sites through its Locate In Wisconsin website. Other Certified In Wisconsin sites are located in Westport, Wisconsin Rapids, Stevens Point, Beaver Dam, Beloit, Chippewa Falls, DeForest, Fitchburg, Howard, Janesville, Menomonie, Prescott, Verona and West Bend. Development is currently underway at the Stevens Point, Beloit, Fitchburg and Prescott locations.

Apprentice program gets boost

The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development received a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to expand its Wisconsin Apprenticeship Growth and Enhancement Strategies (WAGE$) project. The program will add new apprenticeships in 12 high-growth areas including advanced manufacturing, healthcare and information technology.

Under the program, up to 1,000 new apprentices and 542 current workers will receive additional training and skill development.

The DWD is working with the Wisconsin Technical College System and the Wisconsin Workforce Development Association to develop and promote registered apprenticeship programs in the state. -- Matzek, a freelance writer and editor, is the owner of 1Bizzy Writer. She has worked in the past as a news editor at Insight Publications and as business editor at the Appleton Post-Crescent.


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