INSIGHT ON: Economic Development – Drawing them in

Posted on Mar 4, 2013 :: Economic Development , Insight On
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Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

David Baldus moved his pet food manufacturing business, Front Porch Pets, from Waukesha to Wild Rose in Waushara County to be closer to suppliers and to take advantage of the area’s high quality of life.

Small businesses find success in Green Lake, Waushara and Marquette counties

David Baldus went against the grain when he relocated his business from Waukesha to Wild Rose in Waushara County, but to him the move made perfect sense.

Baldus is the founder and president of Front Porch Pets Inc., a manufacturer of dog treats, including an alternative to rawhide chews for dogs made out of sweet potato, called Sam’s Yams.

“What I love about being in Wild Rose is that you can literally walk out your front door and be in the country and go hiking, biking, fishing or whatever,” says Baldus, who trained and worked as a product development chef for restaurants and businesses before deciding one day to make a product with sweet potatoes as a healthier alternative than rawhide. “I love having the opportunity to create a business that allows me to enjoy the outdoors and all the recreation this area has to offer.”

Front Porch Pets is one just example of a business in the tri-county area of Marquette, Green Lake and Waushara counties finding success by keeping it local, says Bill Wheeler, executive director of the Tri-County Regional Economic Development Corp.

“It’s wonderful to have a business move in here from a bigger city and I think when people see this kind of success, it will lead more to look at the same thing,” he says.

When he moved to Wild Rose last year, Baldus started with 18 employees and now has 30 with plans to grow even more. Later this year, the company plans to build greenhouses to grow herbs to use in its products. The greenhouses will be heated by capturing the heat from the company’s driers.

Baldus says moving to Wild Rose wasn’t just about a better quality of life, it also brings him closer to his suppliers – the farmers who grow the different products he uses in his pet food and treat lines. “We’re in such a great location with so much agriculture around us. It sets us apart from the competition,” he says. “The fact that we are American made, and I believe even a Wisconsin-based, Midwestern company has helped us a lot. It means local, fresh and homemade.”

Front Porch sells its products in 3,000 pet stores and also online and has definitely found its niche in the billion-dollar pet food industry.

Wild Rose is still within 2 1/2 hours of Milwaukee so Baldus says he can still easily get there and enjoy what the village has to offer. He adds that the village has welcomed him with open arms. “I have received much help and friendship from groups in the communities, such as the Rotary and Lions, as well as other businesses,” Baldus says.

Growth from within

Europlast LTD, a custom injector molder based in Endeavor, is another tri-county employer that expanded within the past year by opening a new plant in Westfield. The new plant allowed the company to add 17 employees, Wheeler says.

Europlast has been in Endeavor for 25 years and employs 46 full-time workers. “About $4 million was invested in the new Westfield plant and the new equipment,” says Wheeler, adding that the TCREDC and the Adams-Columbia Electric Cooperative helped fund the expansion.

With agriculture being the area’s main industry, Wheeler says it’s vital for small manufacturers like Europlast to grow since it helps diversify the area’s overall economy. “It’s been a nice year for business expansions,” he says.

Then there are small start-ups like Eco Hub, which is located in Oxford in Marquette County. The small business buys and sells refurbished equipment and attracts shoppers from throughout the region, says owner John Zimmer.

“Personally, I’ve always been interested in buying refurbished goods and saving money and figured other people would be too and I’ve been right,” says Zimmer, adding that since the store opened before Christmas there has been a steady stream of customers coming through. “In a rural area, there’s less income to spend on some of these expensive items, but you are really able to see a savings when you buy the refurbished product, which still has its warranty. People can also save by not having to drive to Madison or Stevens Point, too.”

Zimmer says the store’s inventory constantly changes and sells anything you can plug into a wall outlet, fill with gasoline or run with a battery. “Refurbished goods are becoming much more popular and many people buy them online, but Eco Hub is definitely one of the few retailers around to offer the products in bricks-and-mortar setting,” he says.

ON THE WEB

» Tri-County Regional Economic Development Corp: www.tcredc.org

» Eco Hub: ecohubwi.com

» Europlast LTD: www.europlastltdusa.com

» Front Porch Pets: www.frontporchpets.com