Photo L to R: Orion Samuelson – WGN Keynote Speaker, Mark Satterson – Jan Air,
Otto Dschida - Astro Craft, Craig Weidner -Scot Forge.
As you look through the nominated companies for the 2010 Business Champion Awards, you will recognize some and others may be a surprise. These nominees faced our recent economic challenges by thinking out of the box, retooling, redirecting and basically reviewing their strategic plans in order to re-position themselves for the future.
“ Rethink” seemed to be a common theme for many of the nominees. Astro Craft, located in Spring Grove, used the recent economically challenged time to re-invest in their facility, retrain, retool their image and re-touch their customer base. Their customers include aerospace and military as well as local companies like Scot Forge.
“Involvement’ was another consistent theme in the nominations. Chirch Global Manufacturing in McHenry, is new to the community, but that didn’t stop their management from jumping in and trying to make a difference. Their goal was not only to help expand and grow their business, but to provide useful and practical information for neighboring companies who were all facing the challenges of our recent economy.
“Family owned” another key theme. Many of our nominees were family owned including Huemann Water Conditioning of Johnsburg and Joseph H. Huemann & Sons, Ringwood. Both have provided their customers with exceptional service, value and believe in the old fashioned good neighbor policy. That doesn’t mean they are not innovative…Joe Huemann even built an all electric car for intown service and errands.
Understanding the needs of a small community with limited access to superstores, the Stone Hill Shopping Center was founded in 1980 as Fox River Grove Limited Partnership with a goal to serving their community Flexibility and understanding as their tenants faced financial challenges, they helped support them with advertising and events.
Another small community was fortunate to have a native son start his business in Marengo, Marengo Signs. Bringing new ideas, new equipment and new technology, Marengo Signs has partnered with other local companies to provide better coordinated results.
The Woodstock Independent , a weekly newspaper provides local communities with information and low cost advertising. A one room shop, they employ local people and support the Woodstock and Harvard communities.
Cross training helped Tessler Construction, Crystal Lake, through the past construction challenges as did attention to ‘clean construction’ methods, and flexible work schedules to accommodate their customers’ needs. This company supports ‘hire local, buy local to support the local economy.
Passion can be found in most successful businesses, but Wirfs Industries in McHenry reflects a passion for welding, fabricating and finding out how equipment works. This company is nationally recognized as an equipment testing developer for fire departments and prides itself in effective use of resources and cost effective service. From the Navy base in Pearl Harbor, to Guam to municipal fire departments all around the state, McHenry’s Wirfs Industries keeps people safe and helps our first responders.
Althoff Industries (Crystal Lake) is long time family business who is an outstanding corporate citizen and strategic planner. As technology changed, they seized the opportunity to develop expertise in Geo Thermal, wind and solar systems and continue to keep abreast of new technology and skills needed for the future.
Associated Electric (Woodstock) has been in the county for 21 years and they too, while affected by the economy, focused on training and learning new technology in the Wind Turbine and Solar Energy fields.
Mastercoil Spring (McHenry) was originally founded to supply custom springs to the dispenser industry. They expanded their product base and continue to broaden their capabilities with new automated equipment and ISO certification.
Woodstock’s Silgan Plastics, provides convenience food packaging. The changes in the economy provided the impetus for them to focus on new innovative product developments to invigorate its business.
General Kinematics (Crystal Lake) celebrating 50 years this year, designs and builds large scale recycle vibrating machines as well as vibrating machines to be used at coal facilities to separate particles. It is evolving their business by moving from its foundry base, to one of more foreign sales and global markets.
Kenmode Tool & Engineering (Algonquin) turned the economic downturn into an opportunity to upgrade its manufacturing facilities, train employees, upgrade its strategic plan and invest in additional equipment and certifications. Founded 50 years ago, they employees are ‘family’ and they provided support and communicated via plant meetings on how the recession was affecting operations, keeping everyone involved and aware.
Watlow (Richmond) another 50 year company, reached out to their employees to help overcome challenges. Through strong communication and dialog, the company kept their employees engaged and they are now poised to invest in several new strategic opportunities. Wauconda Tool & Engineering (Algonquin) was founded 60 years ago. Faced with the negative impact of its core automotive base, it shifted its focus and seized on opportunities in the medical devices arena. Communicating with their employees, they worked through the challenges together and are eager for their new opportunities.
Dean Foods (Huntley and Harvard) was founded in the 1920’s. For 85 years, this company has been a leader in the industry providing milk and related products. Reacting to the consumer needs, Dean Foods also provides organic dairy and soymilk as well as Morningstar products. Here too, the company has adopted a ‘Continuous Improvement’ program which engages and communicates with their employees to reduce costs and improve products.
From submarines to aircraft Carriers, Spring Grove’s Scot Forge, raises the visibility of McHenry County. In business for 32 years, they are 100% employee owned. New machinery, more capabilities and updated laboratory space has positioned them to seek new industries to add to the over 20 different markets currently served.
Corporate Disk Company (McHenry) is a manufacturer of DVD’s. and has digital printing capacity to print marketing and training manuals for companies across the US and abroad They too broadened their capabilities by investing in high tech shipping/inventory software, a complete ERP system, and new packaging and printing equipment. These improvements position them to expand their services and increase their markets.
Obviously, ‘same old, same old’ doesn’t work in today’s world. The other common thread among our business champion nominees was communication - keeping the employees engaged and aware of the challenges and opportunities ahead.
The ‘huddle’ was the communication tool Curran Contracting Company (Crystal Lake) used to keep employees engaged and aware during weekly meetings to keep communication flowing. In business for 72 years – 5 generations, they continually invest in new equipment to remain competitive and reacted to the changes in the economy by shifting their sector focus.
In business since 1949, Jan-Air, Inc. (1949)(Richmond) was also affected by the economy and dramatic changes in their customer base. They instituted weekly meetings with the employees to share the company’s challenges and are focusing on new machines and new processes.
Family Services (McHenry) has provided mental health and substance abuse services for 50 years. Faced with funding challenges, communication was the tool they used to keep staff, volunteers, and clients informed. Through creative collaboration and programming and their dedicated and informed staff, services are available for those in need.
Exemplar Financial Network (Crystal Lake) provides professional financial planning services. The affects of the recession are far reaching and EFN provides continuous updates for those considering retirement and for those needing to create long range financial plans. A strong community supporter, EFN is active in a wide variety of organizations.
Congratulations to all of the nominees. McHenry County is fortunate to have such quality companies positively affecting our economy and employing our residents.