• WisBusiness

Monday, March 2, 2015

MaryBeth Matzek: Miron Construction invests in helping employees reach their dreams

By MaryBeth Matzek
Carrie Garczynski knows she has a unique title – dream coach – but every day she works with employees at Miron Construction Co. to help them reach their dreams whether it's starting a photography business, planning out a garden or saving up for a special trip.

"I work with them to plan and develop goals and then holds them accountable to what they are trying to do," says Garczynski, who joined the Neenah-based construction company 18 months ago. "They can be personal projects or aspirations and they can be big or small."

The idea to have a dream coach came to Miron President Dave Voss after reading the book, "The Dream Manager" by Matthew Kelly. The book discusses how businesses who help their workers achieve personal dreams can improve their productivity and retention. Voss saw it as a way to help the company, which also has offices in Wausau, Milwaukee, Madison and Iowa, to reward its hardworking employees and also distinguish itself in attracting new talent.

"It's definitely a differentiator when recruiting employees," Garczynski says. "It sets us apart."

When Garczynski first presented the concept to Miron workers, she admits the response was a bit tepid, but after some employees took the leap and word began to spread about what they were doing, interest has increased.

"It's going gangbusters now. I've also done Expand Your Minds and Lunch Workshops where I talk about how people can reach their goals and also send out biweekly emails too with inspirational messages," she says. "When I work with employees, I use a variety of tools and resources to help them map out a plan to make their goals feasible."

Participation is confidential unless an employee decides to share his or her story. Employees work with Garczynski for free and having her on board shows them that the company cares about its workers.

So far, Garcyznski has worked with employees on a range of projects from how to take a crafting hobby and turn it into a business to helping another employee find her birth mother.

"There's no project that's too big or too small. We talk about what their goal is and then I work with them on creating a plan to reach that goal," Garcyznski says. "I then circle back and work with them to see how they're doing."

As for why a company would help employees reach a goal – such as starting their own businesses – that could possibly lead to losing them, Garczynski says it's a risk worth taking.

"The goal is to help employees reach their goals and dreams and as they do that, they are happier and happier employees are more engaged and productive," she says. "What we're doing is really sending the message that we care about employees and that I think will help us become an employer of choice in a very competitive industry."

Cancer center construction

ThedaCare, a seven-hospital health system headquartered in Appleton, broke ground this week on its new $44 million regional cancer center. It's located next to Encircle Health, an ambulatory care center that has ThedaCare as one of its partners, and visible from U.S. 41.

The Regional Cancer Center will serve as the home base for ThedaCare's cancer program, which is focused on respecting patients and their families by honoring their choices, bringing a team of top- talent care providers to the table, and offering a broad range of treatments, services, and resources. Patients will have access to the latest technologies, including promising new treatments through participation in clinical trials, as well as the ThedaCare network of cancer care physicians and support staff.

Boldt Construction is building the center, which is scheduled to open in 2016.

Decision day for expo center

The Appleton City Council will take up the issue of purchasing land for the Fox Cities Exhibition Center once again next Wednesday. This latest vote – to spend $2 million to buy land for the center from Outagamie County – comes after a six-hour information session held earlier week. That public session provided plenty of time for community members and public officials to ask questions and get answers about the proposed center, which will be owned by the city but operated by the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel. The hotel will be connected to the center, which provides exhibition space and serves as a compliment to the hotel's meeting rooms.

For more on the center, please check out my previous column on the issue.

-- 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, February 20, 2015

MaryBeth Matzek: Ruling raises farmer liability concerns

By MaryBeth Matzek
It's been more than six weeks since the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled manure that makes its way into the water supply is considered a pollutant, but there's still little guidance on what that may mean for the state's farmers.

The court ruling stemmed from a 2011 case against a farm near West Bend that had 600 cows. In that case, Robert and Jane Falk were notified by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources that their manure spreading activities led to well contamination. The couple turned to its insurance company, Wilson Mutual, to handle the claims filed against them by neighbors who said their water supplies were damaged. Wilson Mutual cited an exclusion for damage caused by pollutants and said it was therefore not responsible. In ruling that manure found in drinking water is a pollutant, the court let Wilson Mutual off the hook for the bulk of the filed claims.

In ruling that manure can be a pollutant, the court sent shockwaves through the farming community, said Elizabeth Wheeler, an attorney with Clean Wisconsin, a Madison-based non-profit focused on environmental protection. She thinks the ruling will put more attention on nutrient management plans. In Wisconsin, farms with more than 1,000 animal units or roughly 700 cows are required to file nutrient management plans with the state. Those plans spell out how much and when manure can be spread on farmland.

"Farmers don't think they are polluting. They think are just fertilizing their fields," she said. "Most farmers follow their nutrient plans and we really view it as a best practice that all farms have a plan in place for dealing with their manure."

Bill Schuster, head of Door County's Soil and Water Conservation Department, said farms of all sizes need to pay closer attention to their nutrient management plans.

"It doesn't matter if a farm has 250 cows or 1,200 cows – their waste can still wind up in the water and all farms need a plan in how to deal with it," he said.

Wheeler said the December ruling focused on liability issues so she's taking a "wait-and-see approach" to what may happen next.

Schuster thinks people who rent out their land to farmers may be most at risk since they could face a lawsuit if anything spread on their land winds up in the water supply.

"The landowners may be more likely to seek liability coverage in case something happens with the manure spread on their land," he said.

WMEP's impact

As manufacturers from around Wisconsin gather next Thursday in Milwaukee for the annual Manufacturing Matters conference, industry leaders have plenty to celebrate.

Manufacturing – which makes up the state's largest employment sector – added more than 9,300 jobs between July 2013 and July 2014, placing it fifth in the nation for manufacturing job growth.

With all the positive statistics, there's one Buckley Brinkman, executive director and chief executive officer of the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership, is especially proud of. Since WMEP started in 1998, its efforts with clients led to $3.1 billion in economic impact. Brinkman estimated that about 4,000 Wisconsin companies have been helped through WMEP services.

"Crossing the $3 billion milestone is a tribute to more than 15 years of focus on aligning multiple organizations, talents and energy to make the Wisconsin manufacturing environment the best in the world," he said.

WMEP, a private, non-profit consulting organization, provides a variety of services to help small and midsize manufacturers develop and implement plans that foster growth, increased profitability and improved global competitiveness. For example, it helps businesses looking at entering foreign markets or those looking at lean initiatives.

Hospitals improve quality

The Wisconsin Hospital Association recently issued a report showing the progress that 108 state hospitals made in 2014 to reduce avoidable hospital readmissions, decrease infections and prevent medication errors. The hospitals working with the WHA estimate they have improved care for more than 9,000 patients in the past three years and avoided more than $87 million in health costs. There are 32 other Wisconsin hospitals working with other improvement initiatives.

One area that is particularly important to patients is the prevention of hospital-acquired infections. Central line-associated blood stream infections (CLABSI) are among the most serious and often lead to extended stays in the Intensive Care Unit or place a patient at risk of death. Since 2008, Wisconsin hospitals have reduced those infections by 71 percent by standardizing best practices and with real-time monitoring, the WHA says.

Read the full report

-- 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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