Regional Roundup June

Posted on Jun 1, 2010 :: Up Front
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

Empowering Employees
Miles Kimball finds success with its KIXS improvement process
IT STARTED AS A SIMPLE IDEA from an assembler at the Miles Kimball Co. in Oshkosh: What if the company included a product sample from a line the company was looking to promote with all of its orders?

The employee shared that idea at a weekly meeting and it was passed on through the company right up to the top, where leaders agreed it was a great, low-cost promotion idea.
“Workers are empowered here to speak up and share what they’re thinking without being afraid. Whether it’s a way to promote sales or make the workplace safer, there’s a real environment here that is accepting and open,” says Andy Schulz, who is part of the customer service team for Miles Kimball, a direct marketer of consumer gifts and houseware products.
That openness and empowerment felt by employees is the cornerstone of the company’s Kimball’s Improvement in eXcellence System or KIXS, which transformed the company’s culture through the use of cross-functional teams, facilitators and charter teams who all work together to make sure that Miles Kimball not only meets its business goals, but also creates a culture where employees thrive.

Miles Kimball adopted KIXS in 2002 and it is fully ingrained throughout the company, says company president Vicki Updike. “KIXS is part of everything we do. It’s essential to our culture and part of how we do business every day,” she says. “It guides us every step of the way and allows creativity, responsibility and accountability at every level of the corporation.”
Gail McNutt, a community advocate who served as a judge for the New North Workplace Excellence Award, calls the work Miles Kimball has done with employees refreshing.
“They had so many associates involved at every level; it was not a solution pushed down from the top,” she says.

Using KIXS, Miles Kimball launched a comprehensive healthy workplace initiative that held employee insurance premium increases to no more than 3 percent to 5 percent over a four-year period. All told, the company realized health care savings of $5.4 million in the past eight years.
When it comes to wellness, the company offers employees free access to the Oshkosh YMCA, discounted healthy options in the vending machines, cash incentives for their health risk assessment results, onsite bicycles and treadmills and access to an onsite health coach, occupational health nurse and occupational therapist.

Safety is another focus area where changes made through KIXS have made a huge difference. The company’s recordable OSHA injuries have steadily decreased year after year and since 2004 the incidence rate has dropped by 61.9 percent.

“It’s all about employee involvement and valuing their opinion,” says Jim Eckberg, facilities and safety leader for Miles Kimball. “Employees know that if they have a safety concern, it will be addressed and this has led to more employee ownership regarding safety.”

Miles Kimball’s strong emphasis on employee wellness, safety and continuous improvement set it apart from the pack when looking at other employers in the New North, says Al Hartman, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and another contest judge.

Hartman says Miles Kimball used its wellness and safety initiatives as a way to engage all employees in a problem-solving process. “Miles Kimball really empowered its employees to make a difference,” he says. “It was a definite cultural shift and it’s one they did quite well.”
With about 600 employees – plus another 600 seasonal employees added each fall – communication is the ultimate key to KIXS’ success, Updike says.

“It needs to go both ways. Not only are we open with how we’re doing as a business – which was key during the economic slowdown – we as leaders are always ready to take time, listen and ask ‘what do you think?’”

The New North
News affecting all 18 counties of the New North region

Road projects earn state funding
Several county road projects throughout Northeast Wisconsin are receiving state funds through the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s County Highway Improvement Program.
Brown County is receiving  $450,000 to help with the reconstruction of County AAA; Door County is receiving $275,000 to help with the reconstruction of County TT; Fond du Lac County is receiving $450,000 to help with the reconstruction of County M; Manitowoc County is receiving $250,000 to help with the reconstruction of County T; Outagamie County is receiving $402,034 to help with the reconstruction of County AA; Waupaca County is receiving $123,000 to help with the reconstruction of County X; Waushara County is receiving $ 247,000 to help with work on Highway O; and Green Lake County is receiving $247,440 to help with the reconstruction of County H.

Companies nominated for environmental award
Thirty-seven companies across Wisconsin, including four in the New North, have been nominated as a Business Friend of the Environment.
The awards, which recognize leadership in pollution prevention, environmental innovation and stewardship, are presented by the Wisconsin Environmental Working Group, an affiliate of Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce.
New North business nominees include the Fox Valley Energy Center in Neenah; The Millstone of Iola Mills in Iola; Thyssen Krupp Waupaca in Waupaca; and U.S. Oil Co. Inc. of Combined Locks.

Doyle signs bill designed to boost job creation
Wisconsin has a few more tools to help businesses expand after Gov. Jim Doyle signed the CORE Jobs Act during a mid-May visit to Green Bay.
The CORE Jobs Act creates and expands a number of tax credit programs, grant programs and loan programs aimed at jobs creation and economic development.
The bill builds on Doyle’s Accelerate Wisconsin plan by providing millions more in tax credits for angel and venture capital investments.  It also strengthens successful programs for manufacturing, research and development and worker training.

Highway 41 Corridor
Brown, Calumet, Outagamie, Winnebago, Fond du Lac Counties

UW-Oshkosh earns sustainability award
The University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh has been recognized as one of the country’s most green universities by both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and The Princeton Review.
The EPA honored UW-Oshkosh as one of the top 26 colleges in the nation for its purchase of green power. In 2009-10, the college used more than 6 million kilowatts hours of green power.
The college was also included in The Princeton Review’s Guide to 286 Green Colleges, which is a partnership with the U.S. Green Building Council, and is the first comprehensive guidebook focused on higher institutions and their sustainability practices.
UW-Oshkosh was the first university in Wisconsin to join the EPA’s Green Partnership in 2003 by agreeing to purchase at least 3 percent of its energy from alternative sources. In 2008, UW-Oshkosh declared itself a Fair Trade University, the first in the United States, by committing to the purchase and use of fair trade products whenever feasible. The university has also established a Climate Action Plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2025.
Construction is currently under way on two new buildings that will be built to at least Gold LEED standards, utilizing such features as a geothermal heat field, green roofs and solar energy. Earlier this year, the college received approval to build the nation’s first dry fermentation anaerobic biodigester, which will convert yard and food waste into fuel.
“The university has been a leader in campus sustainability for more than a decade, serving as a pioneer in working toward carbon neutrality, supporting Fair Trade labor practices, reducing energy consumption and building facilities that reflect UW-Oshkosh’s commitment to sustainability,” says Mike Lizotte, the college’s director of sustainability.

Mall adds turbines, reduces carbon footprint
The East Town Mall in Green Bay has added seven Mariah Windspire wind turbines at its front entrance to help power the mall with a low-cost  energy source.
The turbines will generate power when sufficient wind blows against vertical airfoils, causing a generator to spin. The power is then converted into AC electricity and is available to offset power consumption in the mall and will be used to power lights, HVAC units, vending machines and games.
The turbines mean that the mall will have to purchase less electricity and the move will decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 13.96 tons.
The addition of the turbines is just the latest step the mall has taken to reduce its carbon footprint. Other actions include a recycling campaign, replacing all light bulbs with energy-efficient fixtures and using a computer program to manage the mall’s energy usage during off hours.

Fox Cities chamber to get new leader
After 23 years, Bill Welch is stepping down as chief executive officer of the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce & Industry effective Jan. 1.
He will stay on at the chamber part time as an emeritus advisor and consultant. Under Welch’s leadership, the chamber’s membership grew 50 percent and revenue increased 500 percent.
The chamber board of directors has selected Joyce Bytof of Coldwell Banker the Real Estate Group and Leon Church of Sweetwood Builders to lead the committee to choose Welch’s successor.

Bemis Co. sales top $1 billion mark
Sales for the Neenah-based Bemis Co. hit the $1 billion mark during the first quarter of 2010, a first for the packaging company.
The mark was hit following Bemis’ $1.2 billion acquisition of the packaging business of Rio Tinto, a British-Australian mining and industrial group. Sales for the
quarter were $1.02 billion, a 21 percent increase from the same  period last year.
In March, Bemis completed its takeover of the Food Americas operations of Alcan Packaging, a unit of Rio Tinto plc. Under the deal, Bemis acquired 23 packaging facilities in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, and New Zealand, which recorded 2009 sales totaling $1.4 billion. To approve the deal, a U.S. federal court ordered Bemis to divest two facilities, including one in Menasha.

EMT building new Hobart headquarters
EMT International Inc., a supplier of web finishing solutions to the digital and commercial printing industries, plans to open its new 68,000-square-foot corporate headquarters and manufacturing facility in Hobart in November.
The company broke ground for the project in mid-May. The move allows EMT International Inc. to consolidate all manufacturing, engineering, customer service and assembly operations into one facility.
“Our expansion and growth is due to the hard work and dedication of our employees. The new building enables us to continue providing the highest level of service to our OEM partners and direct customers,” says company president Paul Rauscher.

Kaukauna cheesemaker plans facility expansion
Arla Foods is building a 7,072-square-foot addition to its Kaukauna plant.
The expansion will make room for the company to rearrange some of its current equipment as well as create room for new equipment set to arrive early next year. Built by Keller Inc., the project is set to be finished in September. Arla Foods manufactures specialty cheeses and butter.

The North Woods
Florence, Marinette, Menominee, Oconto Counties

Marinette Marine lands two multi-million deals

While the Marinette Marine Corp. awaits word on whether it will win a contract to build the new class of Navy Littoral Combat Ships, the company has added two impressive projects to its to-do list.
Marinette Marine was selected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to build a $73.6 million fisheries survey vessel. The company expects to cut steel on the new 209-foot ship later this year, with most of the production taking place in 2011 and early 2012.
“It’s a sophisticated, medium-sized ship, and we’re thrilled because it helps to stabilize the work force through 2011 and well into 2012,” says Richard McCreary, Marinette Marine Corp.’s president and chief executive officer.
In addition, the company has received a contract from the U.S. Coast Guard for an additional 30 response boats with a price tag of about $63.6 million. Delivery is scheduled to begin in the third quarter of 2011. The response boats are part of a multi-year contract for up to 250 boats with a total value of up to $600 million.

Tyco Fire Suppression plans $10 million facility
Tyco Fire Suppression & Building Products in Marinette is constructing a $10 million facility to house its engineering operations, product testing and research and development.
Tyco Fire Suppression & Building Products provides fire protection products, such as fire extinguishers and fire detection systems, sold under the ANSUL and PYRO-CHEM brand names. In 1990, Tyco acquired Ansul Fire Protection, now Tyco Fire Suppression & Building Products, which has had an active presence in the Marinette community since 1912.
The facility, which will be called the Center of Excellence, has received $837,000 in state tax credits to help fund the project.

The Lakeshore
Door, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Sheboygan Counties

Sheboygan Chamber moving downtown

The Sheboygan Chamber of Commerce is moving to a 6,000-square-foot downtown Sheboygan building.
The chamber will move into its new office, 621 S. Eighth St., by the end of the summer. The building formerly was home was to EP-Direct Digital Printing Services.
The Sheboygan chamber will include offices as well as a visitor center offering visitors 24-hour access to information on businesses and activities, says Betsy Alles, who joined the chamber as executive director earlier this year.

Federal Mogul moving jobs to Manitowoc 
The decision by Federal Mogul Powertrain Systems to close a plant in Schofield by March 2011 will result in 160 jobs being added to the company’s piston ring facility in Manitowoc.
The Manitowoc plant, which has manufactured millions of piston rings monthly for heavy-duty diesel engines, does not have any employees on layoff so the jobs are a net gain for the city, according to the Southfield, Mich.-based manufacturer.
Some employees from Schofield plant may apply for work in Manitowoc.

West Central
Shawano, Waupaca, Waushara, Marquette, Green Lake Counties

Bethany Home Inc. plans to update Waupaca site
Bethany Home Inc. is spending $1 million to give the nursing home a facelift, updating flooring, light fixtures and color schemes.
At the same time, the home’s mechanical systems will be updated, resulting in energy savings  of up to 30 percent. Bethany Home is working with Focus on Energy to incorporate solar power into the changes.
Bethany Home also plans to expand its rehab therapy unit, creating private bedrooms and bathrooms throughout.

Send business news updates and photos to [email protected]