Winning heritage

Area family-owned manufacturers receive state honors

Posted on Mar 12, 2020 :: Feature
Posted by , Insight on Manufacturing Staff Writer

Two family-owned Northeast Wisconsin manufacturers were among the winners at the annual Manufacturer of the Year Awards.

Fox Valley Wood Products Inc. of Kaukauna won a MOTY in the small manufacturer category, while Nueske’s Applewood Smoked Meats of Wittenberg received top honors in the large manufacturer category. A total of six Wisconsin companies were honored last month at the annual Manufacturer of the Year Awards program, which recognizes organizations that demonstrate a commitment to business excellence, supporting their workforce and involvement in their community.

Nueske’s President Tanya Nueske credited the company’s 215 employees for its continued success and growth. “After 87 years in business, receiving this honor was very overwhelming,” she says. “I am so proud of the team. The people here are so special to me. To receive the award on behalf of the family and them was quite memorable.”

Located in Wittenberg, which is on the western edge of Shawano County, Nueske says the award will put the company and city on the map. “It’s great to see a business in a smaller town recognized. Here we are in Wittenberg doing these great things — producing great products and expanding,” she says. “I hope the award will inspire potential employees to check us out.”

Founded in 1933 by her grandfather, Nueske’s still uses the smoked meat recipes that her great-grandfather brought from Europe. Its products still feature imported spices blended by hand.

“Year after year, you do what you think is right, and to have it rewarded is something special,” Nueske says.

A manufacturer of pallets, specialty crates and industrial shipping platforms, Fox Valley Wood Products is a third-generation family-owned business. Owner Jeff Van Zeeland was thrilled when the company’s name was called as the winner.



“We were among some very respected companies for the honor and it was a surprise — a good surprise, but still a surprise,” he says.

Fox Valley Wood Products, which employs 41 full-time workers, focuses not only on providing the best possible service and high-quality products to its customers, but also on improving the lives of its employees, Van Zeeland says.

“Winning this award is a group effort — you cannot succeed without having a great team, and that’s what we have here,” he says. “The quality of our service and product speak for itself. Nearly all of our sales growth is from word-of-mouth or direct customer referrals.”

Van Zeeland says he is proud to be a manufacturer. “We may not be on the forefront of what people think of when they think about manufacturing, but we are an important player to our customers who trust us to provide the best products as soon as possible,” he says.

Other 2020 winners included: Gamber Johnson LLC of Stevens Point received Manufacturer of the Year Award–Medium Category; Greenheck Group of Schofield received Manufacturer of the Year Award–Mega Category; Metal-Era Inc. of Waukesha won a special award for Exceptional Customer Focus & Satisfaction; and Felss Rotaform, LLC of New Berlin received a special award for Outstanding Employee Engagement & Culture.