Tag Archives: Farming

The Business News: UWSP’s Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology

WIST research helps fuel business innovation
UWSP institute looks for creative ways to spark local economic development

Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology (WIST), part of UW-Stevens Point’s College of Natural Resources, provides research, laboratory services, and education for business and industry. Their ultimate goal is to bring new ideas and innovation from the university to the private sector. Based on the results they’ve achieved in the six years since their inception and the ongoing demand from local businesses for their services, they’ve lived up to their lofty expectations. Now they’re looking to push the envelope to find new and creative ways to spark local economic development.

Justin Hall, WIST project manager, analyzes natural extracts from potato peels.
Photo courtesy of UW-Stevens Point

“All the work we do is with some form of business partnership,” explained Paul Fowler, Executive Director of WIST. “We focus on improving economic development, sustainability, and minimizing environmental impact and naturally find ourselves working with industries that utilize natural resources.” Some of these include the paper industry, vegetable and fruit growers, and companies looking to utilize biomass waste from these processes. Just in the paper and packaging industry alone they have provided learning and training opportunities to 480 professionals.

Paul Fowler

These connections have translated into opportunities as Bill Cunningham, Manager of Integrated Solutions for Siemens Water Solutions in Rothschild, can attest. “It’s critically important that we have, one, a place to go to where we can have some of these short-term research efforts undertaken and not be delayed by our current research project commitments. And secondly, where we can do it at a place where we can train up students at the undergraduate or the graduate level and hopefully, long-term relationships develop and this becomes a feeder source for our future employment candidates as well. Siemens may be global, but having a local resource like WIST means we can undertake a greater volume of research with our current research staffing, and help develop the talent we’ll need to rely on in the years to come,” Cunningham said.

One measure of WIST’s economic impact is that they have received approximately $12 million in federal and state grants and $1.5 million in private sector investments. This infusion of financial support has allowed WIST scientists the opportunity to conduct valuable research that is then used by local companies to grow their business and local economic impact. “Patents have resulted from some of our biomass research and are being scaled up by American Science & Technology out of Wausau,” said Fowler. “That’s just one of the many examples. We are also working with Okray Family Farms (located in Plover) on an interesting project where we have a test plot of cold weather grapes with plans to extract the resveratrol which possibly prevents symptoms of certain diseases, like Parkinson’s.”

Pacon Corporation, located in Appleton, and owner of the Strathmore Artist Papers brand, also reached out to WIST after learning about their capabilities. As a result, they now offer fine art papers in three grades to customers across North America. “We could not have launched our Printmaking program, especially in the timeframe, without UWSP. We have been able to bring new products to the market, made in Wisconsin paper mills, that will help us continue to grow our business and cement our position as an innovative supplier of fine art papers,” stated Jim McDermott, EVP of Sales and Marketing for Strathmore Artist Papers, after the project was completed.

Founded in 2010, WIST was initially comprised of a part-time staff that focused only a small portion of their time on the new initiative. Quickly recognizing the demand and potential, Fowler was brought on as the first full-time employee. By December 2014, they were up to 13 staff members. Recent funding decisions at the state level have since decreased that number, but the “work hasn’t dried up, that’s for sure,” Fowler mentioned when discussing their capacity. Unfortunately, some crucial projects, such as biomass fermentation research, have been put on hold until additional funding is available. To fill some of that void, they’ve turned to students. More than 40 students have been involved in WIST training and research.

UW-Stevens Point’s initial ties to the paper industry were the foundation of WIST, but with Wisconsin being one of the top global producers of snapbeans, carrots, potatoes, cranberries, and other fruits and vegetables, working with some of the region’s farmers and growers was a natural extension. With their research efforts, they will continue to infuse innovation into local businesses that rely heavily on natural resources and central Wisconsin will likely see new markets and industries formed, spurring economic development for the entire region.

Published in The Business News on March 13, 2017

 

The Business News: Swiderski Equipment

The Business News is another newspaper that I have the pleasure of writing for most months. After a brief hiatus to finish my military coursework, through the Command and General Staff College, I’m back to writing. To read the most recent article published, please click on the link below.

Jan 2, 2017 – Swiderski has filled a need since 1925

While you’re at it don’t forget to pre-order my upcoming novel Forever Changed by sending a quick email to jimservi10@gmail.com.

Or if you prefer, I’ve pasted the original text here along with pictures:

Swiderski Equipment Inc. was founded in 1925, on the Swiderski family homestead in Mosinee, to support the local farming community and that is exactly what they continue to do today. Owned by Alex and Dianne Swiderski, the company is preserved in the Swiderski family more than 90 years later. By evolving with the agriculture industry, they have captured, “more than 50% of the market share in the areas that we are responsible for,” explained Sly Krautkramer, Chief Operating Officer. But that wasn’t always the case. As recent as 2010, they struggled to define what the next level would look like for their business. Finally, all the pieces fell into place and they have been growing ever since. “We’ve had a pretty good surge here, which started in 2010, and took the business to a new level,” said Krautkramer discussing their secrets for growth. “We got into high horsepower stuff, precision farming technology, and took our offerings to a higher level with bigger farms demanding bigger equipment.”

Owners Alex and Dianne Swiderski

Owners Alex and Dianne Swiderski

That is where Swiderski Equipment’s evolution paid dividends. When they were founded in 1925, there were 193,155 farms in Wisconsin and only 116 farms were over 1,000 acres according to the 1925 Census of Agriculture. Naturally, their business supported these family farms, first by training and selling work horses and later by selling New Holland and Minneapolis Moline tractors and implements by the late 1930s. That evolution continued throughout the subsequent decades. Fast forward to recent years and there are now less than 70,000 farms in Wisconsin and almost 2,500 of those farms encompass 1,000 acres or more. Now, all five of their locations – Mosinee, Wausau, Thorp, Antigo, and Waupaca – offer product lines to support the larger farm operations in an 18-county area that spans from the Chippewa Falls/Eau Claire area to Outagamie County and throughout central and northern Wisconsin.

Sly Krautkramer

Sly Krautkramer

Even though they now can easily serve those large farms, “we have equipment to support hobby farmers with only two acres up to those with more than 2,000 acres,” noted Krautkramer. Agriculture may be the core of their business, but Swiderski Equipment is involved in many other areas as well. “Construction equipment, governmental contracts, weekend adventurers, landscaping, and snow removal are just a few of our markets,” described Krautkramer with the help of Melissa Heise, Director of Marketing and Human Resources. “There’s also another side of agriculture we support, in addition to traditional dairy and crop farming, including cranberries, potatoes, grain, and beef operations. We’re using technology to help those growers and producers be profitable in their own businesses.”

Melissa Heise

Melissa Heise

Evolution of their product line is clearly one key factor to their dominating growth in the region, but certainly not the only key to success. “We have high level, quality people with little turnover,” said Krautkramer with pride. “Not only that, but we hire talented people and empower them. Each person has a different personality and a different flavoring which we capitalize on to get strong results.” According to Krautkramer, that wasn’t always the case either. “We went from having a hard time finding employees to having people knocking on our door because everyone wants to work for a winning team.”

With success due to their never ending evolution and a strong team in place, Swiderski Equipment is looking to continue their success. “We always have to grow and have growth plans in place, but the real key is to capitalize on new opportunities,” explained Krautkramer. One key aspect of that continued growth is what Heise calls their “sixth location.” Right now, they are investing in advancing their online presence or that “sixth location” and will be launching a brand-new website sometime early in 2017. With that, they hope to reach out to both current and prospective customers to discuss technology and innovations so they can stay on the cutting edge and provide their customers with exactly what they require to be successful.

Even with all that, Krautkramer says there is one last key to their continued growth and success. “We support our communities through different programs and community events, whether it is 4-H, the FFA, or June Dairy Breakfasts, we’re engaged and active members of our community to show them we truly care.”