• WisBusiness

Monday, April 27, 2015

MaryBeth Matzek: Oshkosh biodigesters put students to work

By MaryBeth Matzek
During one of his classes at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Kinan Pasley heard about the three biodigesters that the college offered. A biology major, Pasley decided he wanted to see them for himself so he called about a tour.

He was blown away by what he saw and when he heard about the opportunity for UW-Oshkosh students to work at one of them. Biodigesters use bacteria to break down organic matter – whether it's cow manure or leftover food or plant products – and then captures the methane released by the bacteria as it digests the organic matter. The methane is then trapped and can be burned for heating or electricity. The leftover organic solid waste can be then sold as fertilizer or further composted.

During the past few years, the university opened three biodigesters: an urban anaerobic dry biogas system digester on campus; a small farm biogas system at a farm outside of Oshkosh; and a biogas system at Rosendale Dairy in Fond du Lac County. Each of the biodigesters is unique in its own way. For example, the Rosendale site is located at the state's largest dairy and also has an onsite learning facility while the on-campus dry biogas system was the first of its kind to be built in North America.

"I was working before in the student union, and while that was OK, I thought this was a much better fit for my major and it's providing me with hands-on skills I can use after graduation," says Pasley, who will graduate next month and plans to work at the on-campus biodigester through the summer.

Students working at the biodigester do a variety of duties, but most involve collecting data – both of what's going in and out of the biodigester.

"Getting involved with something like this will set me apart as I look for a job," Pasley says.

Besides collecting data, students also do some maintenance work at the on-campus biodigester and the two housed at the nearby farms. Nathan Ochocinski, a biology major just finishing up his first year of college, says working at the on-campus biodigester was unlike anything he had ever done before.

"It's definitely a lot different than anything I've ever done before," he says, adding that he can't believe how much food waste comes into the biodigester. "That has definitely raised my awareness about how much food gets wasted. It's definitely eye-opening."

That's the idea, adds Greg Kleinheinz, the UW-Oshkosh Viessmann Chair of Sustainable Technology/professor of environmental engineering tech. The university is making a name for itself with its biodigesters and is looking to spread the word about them.

"Biodigesters can work for farms of all sizes," he says. "Once the biodigester is up and running, they pretty much work on their own."

Main Street prize

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation selected the Miner Theater in Ladysmith as the winner for its Main Street Makeover Contest. The single-screen theater, which has been open since 1948, will receive $10,000 to help the owner make upgrades to the theater.

Owner Brian Herrick plans to restore the historic façade and lobby space and also add a second screen so the theater can show more than one movie.

"This award couldn't come at a more perfect time -- we're so excited to move forward with plans for the theater," he says. "We just saw the building and the community and fell in love -- there is so much potential here and we're happy to have a role in helping the community realize it."

The WEDC contest was designed to increase awareness of the Wisconsin Main Street Program and showcase the businesses that call these downtown areas home.

-- 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.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

MaryBeth Matzek: St. Norbert rolling out MBA program this fall

By MaryBeth Matzek
When it comes to MBA programs, there's definitely not a shortage for Wisconsin students to choose from. But after doing a careful analysis of the situation – much like a business student may do in an MBA program – St. Norbert College in De Pere is jumping into the market this fall.

Kevin Quinn, dean of the Donald J. Schneider School of Business and Economics at St. Norbert, says the new program fills a need.

"We did ask ourselves, 'does the world need another MBA program?' and the answer was yes. There are programs out there, but we felt something was missing and that we could fill that gap,"

Quinn says. "There's a lot of focus on soft skills and those things that make the difference between a supervisor and a leader."

St. Norbert's program is designed around three types of students: working professionals who may be executives in a few years, clinical healthcare employees looking for more business acumen and professionals looking for a better grasp of supply chains and how what they do fits into the bigger picture.

"With healthcare, we really felt there wasn't any program out there for those who have clinical expertise, but didn't have that business background," Quinn says.

The first class starts this fall and Quinn anticipates about 35 students will enroll. All classes will be held in the evenings. "That's something we heard from the focus groups we did – they wanted evening classes, not something on the weekend," he says. "We've already gotten a great response. People are excited about it."

Current business college faculty as well as some new hires will teach classes and Quinn says local business leaders will also be tapped.

"With this program, we only want to do what makes sense for us and the community. We also wanted to deliver an authentic St. Norbert experience to our students and really want them to be excited when they pull up on campus and arrive for class," he says.

Quinn says the classes will feature a lot of hands-on experiences as well as networking opportunities. "We feel we're training the next generation of Northeast Wisconsin business leaders and there will be a lot of great connections formed," he says.

In putting the program together, Quinn says multiple focus groups and surveys were done to make sure there was a need for another MBA program and how it would be structured. "We really listened to what people had to say as we put the program together," he says.

Sheboygan issues call to "all the single ladies"

The city of Sheboygan has been recognized by DatingAdvice.com as one of the best places in the nation for young millennial women to meet high-quality men.

According to the website, Sheboygan has 1,793 extra single men when comparing demographics of the number of men and women between the ages of 20 and 29. As for those men, they are likely earning higher wages than average since the county's per capita income is seventh highest in the state. The area is also home to several large employers including the Kohler Co. and Acuity insurance, which have many opportunities for both men and women looking to launch and advance their career, the website says.

Sheboygan was the only Upper Midwest city to make the cut of best places to find single men.

Back in the game

Mike Weller, the former president of Miller Electric in Appleton, is the new chief operating officer for Faith Technologies, a Menasha-based electrical, engineering and technology systems contractor. Weller retired from his role with Miller Electric earlier this year after working there more than 30 years. Weller will oversee internal organization processes and infrastructure at Faith Technologies. -- 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, April 13, 2015

MaryBeth Matzek: Manufacturing app powerful tool for workers, students

By MaryBeth Matzek
Jay Stulo, director of learning innovations at Fox Valley Technical College, simply calls GAMMA+ a "tutor in your back pocket" for manufacturers.

GAMMA+, which stands for Greater Advanced Manufacturing Mobile Apps, provides anyone with a smartphone, tablet or computer access to a series of tutorials and learning materials focused on a wide range of manufacturing skills. FVTC launched the program three years ago after receiving a $2.9 million U.S. Department of Labor grant to address gaps in manufacturing education. Today, the site has more than 500 short tutorials on a wide range of topics from basic math needed in manufacturing and how to write a professional e-mail to welding and machinist basics.

"All the tutorials are very short – just five or six minutes and are great for our students as well as people already working in manufacturing, but are looking for a refresher or trying to learn something new," Stulo says.

During the past year, GAMMA+ registered 117,239 page views from 13,819 unique visitors. "We get hits from all over the world," Stulo says. "We've gotten hits from all 50 states and 139 other nations."

In pulling GAMMA+ together, Stulo says the college, which is headquartered in Appleton, turned to local manufacturers and asked what skills they thought employees needed to know. The site is broken into five different sections – electronics, automation, machine tool, welding and mathematics. There's also digital flashcards to help with the learning process.

"Our staff helped us put the tutorials together and some faculty are using them in class to teach and reinforce material, too," Stulo says.

Beyond physical skills – such as how to use a sine bar, Stulo says manufacturers also talked about the need to teach soft skills, including how to write professional emails and work together as a team.

"That's something we keep hearing about more and more," he says. "Workers have the technical skills, but not necessarily those soft skills that help them be productive employees."

To check out GAMMA+ for yourself, click here: http://www.wisc-online.com/gammaplus

In-school clinic

Green Bay-based Bellin Health is building a new in-school clinic at Peshtigo Elementary Learning Center. It's the latest in-school clinic for Bellin, which partners with the school district and the district's insurance company on the project.

The clinic serves teachers, staff members, spouses and dependents on-site with little wait time. It saves money for the district and insurance company while costing the patient nothing or a very low fee. Besides saving money, school officials hope it will allow staff members and teachers to get medical care more quickly and on-site so they don't need to take off too much time from work.

Students will not use the clinic, which should be complete by the end of the month. In addition to Peshtigo, Bellin has in-school clinics in the Ashwaubenon, West De Pere and Howard-Suamico school districts.

Expansion mode

Have you ever seen one of those TVs embedded in a mirror? Did you know they were made by a company in Green Bay? Seura, which was co-founded by Tim and Gretchen Gilbertson in 2003, announced this week it plans to double the size of its office and manufacturing facility. The company, which not only makes those TV-in-mirrors, but a host of other products, including specialty lighted mirrors and indoor and outdoor TVs, hopes the project will be complete this summer. Once the new space is completed, Tim Gilbertson says Seura will be able to double the manufacturing and assembly space for its lighted mirrors.

-- 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 2, 2015

MaryBeth Matzek: GreenTier program honors Wisconsin businesses for environmental efforts

By MaryBeth Matzek
Kermit the Frog may have sung, "it's not easy being green," but businesses and organizations in Wisconsin's Green Tier are showing it can be done – while not hurting the bottom line.

Administered by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the Green Tier program recognizes and rewards organizations with superior environmental performance who voluntarily exceed legal requirements. Statewide, there are 83 companies representing 247 facilities who are in Green Tier 1 and 7 in Tier 2. Tier 1 is the program's entry level while Tier 2 is for organizations with a history of superior environmental performance and have an effective Environmental Management System (EMS). There are also four associations who are charter members and looking to help its member companies meet environmental objectives.

Service Litho-Print, a printer, graphics and creative packaging company in Oshkosh, is the latest business to join the program. In its application, the company shared how it conducts annual air-leak audits, installed energy efficient lighting, has a strong recycling program and uses local suppliers as much as possible. For example, 86 percent of production waste was recycled in 2014.

Chief Operating Officer Dan Clark says Service Litho's commitment to sustainability includes its relationships with customers, suppliers and other business partners. The company also participates in Wisconsin Public Service's NatureWise program where it purchases energy from cleaner sources, such as locally-sourced wind power and biogas generation.

"Sustainability is not something we do. It's something we are," he says.

Clark says many ideas for improvements come from Service Litho's employees, something that DNR Regional Director Jean Romback-Bartels commented on when she presented the company with its Green Tier designation.

"You are a very creative company. This is an opportunity for you to look at all aspects of your business and identify ways to be more efficient, more environmentally friendly," she said. "You are the ones who are here day in and day out. You know the systems. If you have an idea, speak up."

Green Tier participants can use the logo in their marketing pieces and are recognized by the state for their superior environmental performance. Clark says participating in the program is good for business and good for the planet, too.

Initiative paying off

The Lakeshore Industry Cluster Initiative, a five-county collaborative led by the Kewaunee County Economic Development Corp. and Progress Lakeshore, is paying off for local companies, according to a recent survey.

Eighty percent of cluster participants reported that their participation in the program, which is designed to strengthen relationships among area companies and raise awareness about available products and services, has led to more business. Of those participants completing surveys nearly 78 percent said it's generated up to $50,000 in potential new revenue; another 22 percent said it has the potential to generate $50,000 to $100,000 in new revenue. 

More revenue could be on the way. Progress Lakeshore – in partnership with the Kewaunee County Economic Development Corporation – received a grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development Agency and matching funds from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to complete an in-depth study of the Manufacturing Supply Chain for companies in the five-county Lakeshore Region covered by the cluster. That study began in January and will run through September. Consultants are looking to map out business suppliers and customers to better identify opportunities to expand and grow business. 

Progress Lakeshore coordinates the overall initiative with Kewaunee, Calumet, Sheboygan and Door Counties' economic development organizations as well as several technical colleges and New North Inc. 

New state health website

The Wisconsin Health Information Organization (WHIO) has launched MyHealthWi.org, a website to help patients and families take a more active role in their healthcare and help them make value-based healthcare decisions.

The data on the site shows how state clinics measure up to recognized care benchmarks and how providers compare to similar ones in other parts of Wisconsin. Initially, MyHealthWI.org provides ratings in the fields of Internal Medicine, Family Medicine and Pediatrics. More specialties will be added in subsequent versions and updates. 

The site also provides useful information on how patients can better talk with their doctor and get the most out of their doctor visit and follow-up care.

-- 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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