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Reflections: 2016 Business of the Year Winners

On February 16th, St. Croix EDC honored its 2016 business of the year winners at R&D Banquet Hall in New Richmond, Wisconsin. Pictured above are Agnes Ring, EDC President, Todd Loehr of Wisconsin Lighting (Small Business), Trevor Wirtanen and Matt Wallace of  Oliphant Brewing (Emerging Business), Matt Johnston and Ruthie Johnston of Croix Gear and Machining (Business of the Year), and 2016 Directors award winner Trudy Popenhagen.

St. Croix EDC conducted its 23rd annual Business of the Year on February 16. Bill Rubin, the EDC’s executive director, considers himself a fortunate guy, having assisted in 21 of the 23 banquets. He notes the acceptance speeches from the honorees can be moving, and attendees at the February 16th banquet witnessed four exceptional messages.

The partners at Oliphant Brewing, the Emerging Business of the Year, weren’t sure what a business plan contained, but worked with advisors like the Small Business Development Center. A micro loan was secured through the Regional Business Fund and Oliphant was launched.

Wisconsin Lighting, the 2016 Small Business of the Year, is prospering as a manufacturer, proving skeptics wrong that you don’t have move jobs overseas to succeed. Just days before the banquet, billionaire Mark Cuban suggested that manufacturing in the U.S. was dead. Wisconsin Lighting offers evidence to the contrary.

The owner-CEO of Croix Gear & Machining, the 2016 Business of the Year, was thrust into those roles in 2010 following the death of her husband. She surrounded herself with good business advisors including a general manager to oversee production. Croix Gear is thriving as evidenced by a major expansion in 2016 to commemorate its 50th year in Hudson.

Trudy Popenhagen is a very worthy recipient of the EDC Directors Award. Name an EDC or business organization in the St. Croix Valley and you’ll likely confirm Trudy’s leadership and lasting legacy. She served six years on St. Croix EDC’s board as well as a year as president.

Four honorees and four impactful messages. Multiply this over 23 years and it’s easy to see why many of the EDC’s core activities revolve around business retention, expansion, recruitment, and new business start-ups.