Above and beyond

Northeast Wisconsin manufacturers lauded for community service, adaptability

Posted on Mar 15, 2017 :: Feature
Posted by , Insight on Manufacturing Staff Writer

A PAIR OF NORTHEAST Wisconsin manufacturers were among the seven companies named Wisconsin Manufacturers of the Year by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce.

Sargento Foods, one of the region’s venerable food manufacturers, won a MOTY special award for service to its community. Applying its corporate culture tenets of “People, Pride & Progress,” the company not only achieves success and growth for the business, but its employees also take pride in participating in various community projects such as a recent build for Habitat for Humanity.

“Our founder, my grandfather Leonard, knew that he needed a strong community in order for Sargento to grow and succeed,” Sargento CEO Louie Gentine said when he accepted the award. “That spirit has continued for now 63 years and extends to the broader Sargento family, which has now over 1,900 employees. We encourage volunteerism because it helps us appreciate others and gain new perspectives. The community is where it all begins. If we don’t have strong communities, we will not have strong businesses.”

Orion Energy Systems, a Manitowoc-based manufacturer of products encompassing LED solid state lighting and high-intensity fluorescent lighting, received a special MOTY award for its resiliency in recovering from adverse market conditions. Facing financial challenges in 2012, Orion made the bold decision to restructure, and for the past four years the company has expanded its product offerings, reconfigured its sales strategy and is projecting continued growth.

“This recognition by the people of the state of Wisconsin is truly a testament to the courage of Orion’s people,” says John Scribante, CEO of Orion Energy. “During a time of immense challenge and uncertainty, our team members banded together with extraordinary commitment and sheer determination to transform our company to what it is today.”

The annual Manufacturer of the Year awards program recognizes Wisconsin companies that demonstrate a commitment to business excellence, which has a positive impact on the company and the state, making Wisconsin a better place to live, work and play. This was the 29th year of the awards program.

Companies were evaluated in areas such as financial growth or consistency, technological advances, product development, environmental solutions and sustainability, operational excellence and continuous improvement, commitment to employees, and effective research and development. An independent panel of judges selected award winners.

“Our state’s manufacturers are a critical part of Wisconsin’s heritage and Wisconsin’s future,” said Kurt R. Bauer, president/CEO of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce. “We are proud to honor many of the manufacturers at this program that are utilizing new technologies and innovation that will change the way we look at the industry.”

The 29th Annual Wisconsin Manufacturer of the Year Award winners were announced Feb. 23.