FROM THE EDITOR – Innovation in our own backyard

Posted on Nov 1, 2012 :: Editor’s Insights
Margaret LeBrun
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

Sometimes we don’t give ourselves enough credit. A nugget from this month’s cover story illustrates how we can underestimate the innovations coming out of the New North:

“What airport will you be flying into?” a designer asked Tim Gilbertson, co-owner of Séura, when he was looking for a waterproof TV to install in a luxury yacht under construction in Sturgeon Bay. The designer was surprised when Gilbertson replied that his company was “just down the road in Green Bay.”

Tim and his wife, Séura co-founder Gretchen Gilbertson, deliberately chose an exotic-sounding name for their electronics business when they started eight years ago with their first product, a TV-within-a-mirror. As their business grew, they were advised to move to a larger metropolitan area. But they chose to stay. “When people find out we’re from Green Bay, it evokes trust and quality,” Gretchen says.

Yet another example of home-grown innovation: the unusual business model that led to the creation of a hit country song (see “Cruising up the charts,” page 14). A group of about 40 investors, many from the area, bought into the idea proposed by Green Bay native and singer/songwriter Sam Brooker. They essentially contracted with a musician to write songs until a hit bubbled up. The result? “Cruise,” by a band called Florida Georgia Line, which reached No. 3 on Billboard’s hot country songs chart in October. “Nashville has been watching this model,” says Arketype president Jim Rivett, one of the principals in Nurture Capital.

And in the slap-your-forehead, “Wish I had thought of that!” department, check out our story on Cat Dancer Products. The 30-year-old company, founded by Jim Boelke of Neenah, sells a dozen products worldwide. Still popular is its simple toy for cats, made of wiggly wire and corrugated cardboard. It’s so simple it makes you want to trudge into your basement and stay there until you come up with something you can sell a million of. See page 42 for more.

Also in this issue, you’ll learn that the path from Northeast Wisconsin to a greater global connection could widen if a proposal to build and staff a Federal Inspection Station at Austin Straubel International Airport is approved. The $7.5 million facility with full-time U.S. Customs services could create 46 jobs and boost the economy by $2.5 million annually. It’s not a done deal – project leaders are asking business and community leaders to show their support by writing to Congress. Turn to page 12 to find out what you can do.

Getting back to the Séura story, I think we could agree that business leaders really ought to know what their peers are up to across our region. New North, Inc. has been working on this since its launch eight years ago. Kathi Seifert, co-chair of the Northeast Wisconsin economic development organization, talks about how we need to work together for the vitality of the entire region in this month’s Face Time interview (see page 19). She encourages business and community leaders – or anyone with an interest in advancing the regional economy – to attend the annual New North Summit, which takes place on Dec. 7 at the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel in Appleton (page 22). This year’s theme: “Innovate to Elevate.”

New this year, the annual First Business Bank Economic Survey results and CEO panel discussion will be presented during the summit. For more information or to register for the summit, visit www.thenewnorth.com.

As always, the summit should prove to offer primo networking opportunities. I hope to see you there!

Margaret LeBrun

About Margaret LeBrun

Co-Publisher, Executive Editor View all posts by Margaret LeBrun →