Forum brings together business start-ups, resources
Being an entrepreneur doesn’t happen overnight. Just ask Joe Vosters or Jeff Leismer. Both men have been working on their business ideas for a couple of years, have written their business plans and are now on the search for the funding to make their dreams a reality.
Getting to that point not only requires plenty of hard work, financing and a little bit of luck, but plenty of help. The New North Small Business & Entrepreneurial Council recently held a seminar to help connect entrepreneurs and small business owners with the free sources available in the region. Those sources range from micro-lenders like ADVOCAP and free counseling services such as the Fox Cities SCORE Chapter to the Small Business Development Center at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and specialized organizations like the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs Network.
“There’s a lot of misinformation out there and we wanted to let people know what is available and how they can use those sources to their advantage,” says committee chair Alex Kowalski.
Vosters, owner of Bill-Ray Home Mobility LLC, developed an idea to help sick and elderly people do more while caring for his brother-in-law who had a brain tumor. A laid-off engineer with a paper company, he made a prototype of his device – a free-standing framework that goes over existing home beds – and soon set to work writing a business plan and knocking on doors to get financing. “It’s a long road,” he admits.
He attended E-Seed courses at the Venture Center and tapped into the local SCORE chapter for one-on-one business counseling and the Small Business Development Center for more advice on financing options and improving his business plan.
“It’s sometimes hard to find the resource out there that’s right for you and your business, but you just have to keep at it and keep networking,” Vosters says. “The groups are well connected and can help guide you if they think someone else could be more helpful.”
For Leismer, the owner of Vibe Tech Inc. in Sheboygan and winner of the most recent Northeast Wisconsin Business Plan Competition, persistence is key. He started working on his idea – using vibrations to stimulate muscles and bone growth – while earning his master’s degree at Michigan Tech. He later moved to Florida where he pursued his PhD and continued developing his business on the side. After graduation, he took a job with Kohler, but after being laid off he was able to focus full-time on bringing Vibe Tech to life. He recently earned a Small Business Innovation Research grant to help his business get moving.
“Networking is so important for entrepreneurs,” Leismer says. “You need to go out there and figure out who can do work for you for free or at a discounted rate.”
Having a solid business plan is key to any successful business venture, says Kurt Waldhuetter of the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Network (WEN).
“You need to have a document that’s always in flux, changing and growing as you learn more. You also need to be able to present that plan with confidence to investors – whether it’s someone like ADVOCAP, an angel investor or a bank,” he says. “But before you take that plan in front of someone else, you need someone at SCORE, someone at WEN or someone at the small business center to look at your plan and let you know what they really think about it. That way, you can find answers to any potential problems or issues that a lender might bring up.”
Phil Florek, senior business counselor with the Small Business Development Center, says while resources abound for budding entrepreneurs, there’s one thing to always keep in mind: “If anyone says they’ll help you get SBA money if you pay them, run away. We’re here to offer you free help,” he says. “Our job is to help entrepreneurs and small businesses succeed and create more jobs in the New North.”
IN THE NEW NORTH: News affecting all 18 counties of the New North region
New North companies earn Focus on Energy grants
Five area companies have received nearly $1.5 million in grants for their energy efficiency efforts.
BPM in Peshtigo, Georgia-Pacific Consumer Products in Green Bay, Mercury Marine in Fond du Lac, Procter & Gamble in Green Bay and Thilmany Papers in Kaukauna received the awards through the Focus on Energy industrial grant program:
» BPM Inc. received $227,700 to replace a fan pump on one of its paper machines.
» Georgia-Pacific received $125,000 for an optimization project.
» Mercury Marine received $270,000 to install three air collection systems.
» Procter & Gamble received $441,204 to install variable-frequency drives in two of its fans and modify a third.
» Thilmany Papers received $500,000 to improve the thermal efficiency and water usage on its paper machines.
Combined, the projects will save the companies more than $1 million in annual energy costs.
Highway 41 Corridor: Brown, Calumet, Outagamie, Winnebago, Fond du Lac Counties
FVTC makes plans for $1.5 million addition
Fox Valley Technical College is undergoing expansion plans to pursue a nearly $1.5 million, 12,000 square-foot addition to accommodate increased demands for space needs related to training, instruction, and events for students, the community and for college-wide purposes at its Grand Chute campus.
Part of the expansion would also include space for small group meetings. The expansion would take place on the college’s northeast side of the campus. College officials cite an increased enrollment of nearly 18 percent and an upswing in requests for public events as primary factors in the need to expand.
Energy company joins Green Bay incubator
International Energy Partner Services has joined the Advance Business Center’s business incubation program in Green Bay.
Owned by Cory Albrecht, the company offers a low-cost option for smaller energy companies and/or small power generators looking to staff 24-hour scheduling desks, scheduling groups and/or settlement personnel. IEP Services has a person on-call 24/7 to meet the needs of its customers, along with daily communication regarding expectations of bidding and performance. Clients are provided with login information allowing them into the company’s bidding and scheduling Web sites.
Foremost Farms plans $47.2 million expansion
Foremost Farms USA has started construction on a $47.2 million expansion of its mozzarella cheese manufacturing plant in Appleton.
“People think the dairy industry in Wisconsin is slowly dying. Nothing is further from the truth,” says Dave Fuhrmann, president of Baraboo-based Foremost Farms.
The expansion, which will double the plant’s output, focuses on extensive upgrading of machinery and the interior of the facility on Spencer Street and will increase the plant from 140,000 square feet to 153,000 square feet.
“The combination of a strong demand for mozzarella cheese and the nearby availability of a growing milk supply among Foremost Farms’ members in eastern Wisconsin drove the decision to reinvest in the Appleton facility,” Fuhrmann says.
The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection is providing a $3.1 million grant for the project.
FVTC, Case IH and Service Motor partner on ag training
Case IH, Service Motor Company and Fox Valley Technical College recently announced a long-term partnership to provide the college with the latest agricultural equipment and precision farming technologies. “Our agreement supplies FVTC with a variety of new equipment every year for 10 years,” says Kevin Sommer, vice president of Service Motor Company. “It means throughout the next decade, teachers will be educating students on the newest technologies available in the marketplace for agriculture.
Case IH equipment will be used in classes for agriculture production, natural resources, landscaping, material handling and small engine repair. Maintenance and grounds-keeping employees at FVTC also will reap the benefits with state-of-the-art snow removal equipment.
New Case IH equipment for FVTC includes Case IH Magnum and Farmall tractors; an Early Riser planter; an Axial-Flow combine with chopping corn head; tillage implements; hay and forage equipment; mowers; skids steers; and Case IH Scout utility vehicles.
Sommer says a lot of Service Motor Company employees got their start at Fox Valley Technical College. As part of the partnership, instructors and students will have full access to Service Motor’s employees and resources. “Our employees and Case IH product specialists will support classroom instruction, provide hands-on training and assist in field demonstrations. If you take our employees, we have over 1,100 years of combined experience.”
Heartland Label Printers adding equipment, jobs
Heartland Label Printers, a manufacturer of stock and custom-printed direct thermal labels for the weigh-scale industry, is receiving $30,000 in state tax credits to help purchase new equipment for its Little Chute facility.
Once the new equipment is purchased, Heartland Labels plans on adding 10 new workers. The entire project cost is $550,000.
National Packaging expands with state tax credit
National Packaging Services Inc. of Green Bay has received $57,000 in tax credits from the Wisconsin Department of Commerce to purchase equipment for its manufacturing facility.
The company markets three product lines: a complete line of spill control products and wipers; tissue and towel products and dispensing systems; and protective packaging.
The total cost for the project, which is expected to create 15 jobs, is $950,000.
Downtown Fond du Lac preps for makeover
More than 150 Fond du Lac residents recently gathered for a four-day community immersion workshop to discuss ways to revitalize the downtown, attract more tourists and improve the area’s economic health. Through one-on-one interviews, focus groups and community forums participants shared ideas about creating a new downtown cultural arts district.
A cultural arts district would leverage existing downtown facilities, as well as create new arts, education and entertainment facilities in a central downtown location, says events host Kevin Miller, executive director of the Fond du Lac Arts Council.
“Our goal is to leverage Fond du Lac’s existing assets and create new facilities for arts and entertainment to encourage and stimulate business development,” Miller says. “This will help to drive tourism in the area.”
More detailed plans will be announced this month.
Port of Green Bay tonnage drops 18 percent in 2009
The Port of Green Bay received more than 1.8 million metric tons of cargo in 2009, an 18 percent drop from 2008. Port manager Dean Haen says the decline can be directly attributed to the economy. “As the economy struggled to
recover, the need for raw materials went down considerably,” he says. “Although we did see a decrease
this year, the numbers were not as low as elsewhere in the Great Lakes because of the stable economy in Northeast Wisconsin.” As 2009 came to a close, shipments began to increase and Haen is optimistic that the port will see an increase in tonnage for 2010 as the economy bounces back.
Hobart manufacturer consolidates operations
EMT International, Inc., a developer and manufacturer of digital printer components, is consolidating operations and building a new facility in Hobart.
Currently, EMT International has separate assembly and warehousing facilities. The new $500,000 million project will bring all operations under one roof and allow for future growth. With the expansion, the company hopes to add 32 jobs over the next three years. Currently, EMT employs 68.
The Wisconsin Department of Commerce is giving EMT International $168,000 in tax credits for the project.
Festival Foods sets its sights on Suamico
Festival Foods has begun construction on a new store on Lineville Road in Suamico, which will open this fall.
The 71,000-square-foot store will feature Orion Energy skylights, “green” equipment including LED and motion sensor lighting and a new customer friendly deli layout.
The North Woods: Florence, Marinette, Menominee, Oconto Counties
Acer Flooring files for state receivership
One of Peshtigo’s largest employers has filed for voluntary receivership under Wisconsin’s bankruptcy laws and alerted the state that layoffs are possible.
Acer Flooring Inc. employs 131 and told the state it may permanently close its facility in June depending on the outcome of the receiver agreement. Wolf River Lumber in New London is also part of the filing. Both companies are manufacturers and distributors of specialty lumber and flooring products.
A buyer for both companies has been identified and the companies plan to keep accepting and filling orders. A statement from the company’s owners expressed optimism the sale will be successful and employees will keep their jobs.
The Lakeshore: Door, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Sheboygan Counties
Plymouth and LTC receive $670,196 federal grant
A unique partnership between Lakeshore Technical College, the Plymouth School District and the City of Plymouth to help workers develop high-end manufacturing skills has earned a $670,196 grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration. The project grew out of manufacturers’ round table discussions organized by the Sheboygan County Chamber of Commerce to identify and address skill shortages foreseen by area manufacturers.
The Plymouth partnership project leverages federal economic development and community-based resources to provide training and address the need for new manufacturing workers.
Plymouth High School will host the training center, which includes manufacturing and computer labs as well as donated high-speed production line operations equipment and space for staff from Lakeshore Technical College to provide oversight and outreach activities.
Denmark sausage maker expanding, adding jobs
Salm Partners LLC, a Denmark-based sausage manufacturer, is investing $9.26 million in its facility, installing new equipment and creating up to 100 jobs.
Salm is installing a new system made up of production equipment from three suppliers to create a unit allowing the company to further manipulate the texture, appearance and other qualities of the sausage through a collagen co-extrusion process. The system will allow Salm to cook the product in the packaging, providing a safer and fresher-tasting product, according to Salm officials. The Wisconsin Department of Commerce is providing $1 million in loans and state grants for the project.
New owner plans to reopen Manitowoc plant
Skana Aluminum Co., a private company, has purchased the assets of Koenig and Vits of Manitowoc and plans to reopen the production facility this fall.
Koenig and Vits, a custom manufacturer of aluminum coil and blanks, closed in May 2009. The investors of Skana Aluminum Co. will supply needed capital and corporate structure to rebuild the business. Commitments from past customers have already been secured and the company will continue to lease a portion of the building to Tramontina, which manufactures cookware.
Up to 80 jobs may be created once the plant is operating again, says Tom Testwuide, chairman and CEO of Skana Aluminum.
Burger Boat gets contract for state maritime vessel
Burger Boat in Manitowoc is building a $1.9 million vessel for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
The boat – RV Coregonus – is set to be completed in 2011. The Coregonus will work on the waters of Lake Michigan and Lake Superior performing research key to the region’s commercial and sport fishing industries. Burger Boat currently employs about 250 workers.
West Central: Shawano, Waupaca, Waushara, Marquette, Green Lake Counties
Centerline Machine plans new $2 million facility
Centerline Machine of Waupaca recently broke ground on a new $2 million project in Waupaca’s Business and Technology Park.
The 43,500-square-foot building includes 12,000 square feet for future growth.
The additional space will likely be needed since the sales grew six times between 2008 and 2009.
For more on Centerline Machine and other economic developments in Waupaca County, see page 42.
Pulaski company wins national SBA honor
MCL Industries Inc., which manufactures electrical control systems and mechanical assemblies for the heavy-duty truck industry, has been named the U.S. Small Business Administration’s family-owned small business of the year.
Located in Pulaski, the company was founded in 1979 by Melvin Treankler and his sons, Larry and Carl, in the family basement. Since then, the company has continually grown. They are a leading supplier for the Oshkosh Corp.
The SBA recognized MCL for creating a team atmosphere with employees with such policies as a four-day, 10-hour-a-day workweek to support family time and offers a benefits package and comprehensive wellness plan.
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