UPFRONT: THINC! – Insight Innovation winners announced

Posted on Jun 1, 2015 :: Features
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Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

Insight Publications hosted its second annual Insight Innovation Awards on May 19 at UW-Fox Valley. Our panel of judges was impressed with the strong field of nominees — a testament to the innovation occurring throughout the New North. Here are the winners.

CATEGORY: PEOPLE

United Way of the Fox Cities
When the Fox Cities Life Study found in 2006 that one-quarter of local 10th-graders had experienced depression, 14 percent had attempted suicide in the past year and one school district experienced an alarming cluster of suicides, United Way volunteers mobilized. They studied and identified the many causes for this disturbing trend and took action.

Two years later United Way Fox Cities launched PATH, a school-based mental health program designed to increase access to therapy for youth who experience barriers to mental health care.

PATH, which stands for Providing Access to Healing, today collaborates with three mental health agencies and 10 school districts. It has served nearly 1,000 students and achieved measurable success. More than three-quarters of participating students have reported improved relationships with family and friends, reduced symptoms and increased functioning and generally “feeling better about life.”

CATEGORY: PROCESS

Meals on Wheels of Sheboygan County, Inc.
Delivering meals to the elderly, disabled and homebound happens in practically every community in America. But since 2012 Meals on Wheels of Sheboygan County Inc. has been doing it differently — and better. It’s the first meal delivery program in the country to grow much of its own food or use donations of produce from local farmers and gardeners to prepare fresh, nutritional meals for its clients.

As such, the organization has been able to control costs, greatly improve the quality of its meals and be a near-zero waste facility by using sustainable practices.

“They got the local businesses involved and other organizations nationally are looking at them as a model,” our judges said.

Meals on Wheels-Sheboygan accomplished this by working with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, state registered dieticians, the local health department, restaurateurs, institutional food service directors, kitchen equipment manufacturers and kitchen designers using LEAN principles.

CATEGORY: PRODUCT

C3 Corporation
C3 is an Appleton-based engineering firm providing machinery, integration services and data collection to manufacturing companies in unique industries. By focusing on engineering systems that produce a better product for consumers, the company uses technology to gather data and design systems to save space, increase throughput and produce an end product that satisfies consumers.

A notable, recent project is the CWU2000. This machine compresses and packages a foam mattress without folding, down to the size of an oversized golf bag. As a result manufacturers reduce shipping costs, increase e-commerce capabilities and boost storage capacity.

“Innovation is their business and they’ve proven, time and again, they excel at it,” said one of our judges.

CATEGORY: PLANET

Wisconsin Film & Bag
Once it’s used, plastic film for packaging is often full of contaminates that render it useless for reuse. But a Shawano-based company figured out how to clean such material, and as a result has turned recycled plastic film into 25 percent of its sales — and does right by the environment, too.

Wisconsin Film & Bag, which employs 172 and specializes in polyethylene film for packaging, has patented its process for cleaning and recycling post-consumer plastic commonly used in industrial applications such as pallet wrapping. Such a process had not been developed before to produce a resin from post-consumer scrap film with properties of the clarity, strength and appearance of virgin resin.

All the experimentation was done in the company’s break room kitchen. They proved that film scrap could, indeed, be cleaned — by hand or in the dishwasher. Eventually, they took the process to a much larger scale to clean industrial-sized quantities. Our judges were impressed and said: “They just didn’t quit!”

SPECIAL AWARD: UNIQUE SOLUTIONS

Fox Valley Technical College Public Safety Training Center
More than 400 students were on a waiting list for the Fire Protection Program when Fox Valley Technical College assessed its needs to expand a few years ago. Enrollment in the college’s Criminal Justice training programs had increased 60 percent between 2008 and 2011.

As a result of a successful, $66.5 million public referendum that passed in 2012, FVTC was able to meet the demands for these programs and many others when it built a new, $35 million, 95,000 square-foot Public Safety Training Center.

The nation’s first fully-integrated training facility for law enforcement, fire service, and emergency response personnel, includes nearly 40 projects in one and combines classroom training with extensive hands-on, tactical experiences. A wide range of public safety personnel can be trained in areas such as crime scene investigation, firefighting, technical rescue, vehicle pursuit, on-board aircraft emergencies, and more.

The site for the Public Safety Training Center involved an important partnership with the Outagamie County Regional Airport, therefore a great deal of communication and planning needed to occur with both the airport and the FAA.

“The project met the needs of the community well, and was a collaborative work environment,” one judge said. “It’s the only place in the U.S. where this exists — from a vision standpoint, it’s everything in one, catering to training for the FBI, the Secret Service. They are impacting the world from Appleton Wisconsin.” Said another, “It involved innovative solutions to address a real need.”

Click here for photos of the winners in our digital issue.