BALSAM LAKE, WI -- The Polk County Economic Development Corporation proudly hosted the 2023 Polk County Awards Breakfast on Tuesday, October 17, 2023, at Big Rock Creek near St. Croix Falls. The Polk County EDC Awards Breakfast recognizes the economic and community contributions of local businesses and organizations to economic vitality.
Approximately 100 people attended the program including numerous representatives from various economic development organizations, the West Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, Regional Business Fund, Northwood Technical College, Amery EDC, and Polk County.
Prior to the award presentations, Terry Hauer, Executive Director of the Polk County EDC, presented an overview of the organization, the initiatives it directs for greater economic impact, and highlighted the economic progress happening in Polk County. Although there are numerous new businesses and expansions currently underway, the Polk County EDC continues to engage and assist local employers with the workforce and housing shortage that is having a negative economic impact in Polk County and our regional economy.
Tobi LeMahieu, Fund Manager for the Regional Business Fund (RBF), was the guest speaker. Tobi provided an overview of the Regional Business Fund Program that facilitates low-interest loan funds to new and existing businesses within the region. The fund assists to diversify the economy; add new technology; revitalize buildings in the region's downtowns; create or retain quality jobs; and leverage private capital investment in our region and Polk County. Throughout our northwestern Wisconsin seven county region in 2022, the Regional Business Fund loaned just under $3 million dollars that will create over 180 jobs in 2 years.
2023 AWARD WINNERS
Agricultural Excellence Award: Recognizing the impact of agriculture in Polk County and its importance to the local economy and job opportunities.
Winner: Four Hands Holsteins
Four Hands Holsteins was initially begun in 1977 by Merle and Thelma Betzold. Rick and Gwen Dado took over operations in 2007 from Gwen’s parents. With a milking heard of close to 500 registered Holsteins, they also raise youngstock, harvest alfalfa and corn.
The farm employees 10 full time employees in addition to Rick and Gwen. Their quality milk product is shipped to Foremost Farms and made into Mozzarella and Provolone cheese. Rick and Gwen, along with their four older children are all active in the agricultural industry. From nutrition consulting to local education, and research Ph. D to Lactation Physiologist, the Dado children all share a love of agriculture which shows in the farming operation of Four Hands Holsteins. They are also very generous with volunteering in the local community in the FFA and 4-H programs along with hosting tours at the farm to local schools and community groups.
Receiving the 2023 Agricultural Excellence Award - Rick and Gwen Dado along with Terry Hauer, Executive Director of the Polk County EDC.
Service Award: Recognizing excellent business performance along with providing significant contributions toward the betterment of the community and others.
Winner: Family Friendly Workplaces
Family Friendly Workplaces works to address western Wisconsin's workforce shortage, and strengthen western Wisconsin families, by certifying employers as Family Friendly, and encouraging the adoption of Family Friendly practices.
By 2030, St. Croix and Pierce County will add only 200 people each to the workforce. Polk County will have been losing workers for 15 years, and State-wide, Wisconsin will add less than 129 souls to the workforce. Failing to strategically address this long-term HR challenge means that the current staffing challenges will persist and worsen.
The Family Friendly Workplace Certification allows employers to distinguish themselves as being employers that recognize the importance of family to create a productive work environment.
(L to R) Mark Tyler and Neil Kline, Executive Director of Family Friendly Workplaces, accept the 2023 Service Award.
New Business of The Year: Recognizing the contributions and success of a business or organization that has begun business in Polk County within the last two years.
Winner: Equus Magnificus
Equus Magnificus is a family owned, innovative company that specializes in providing distinct products for horse enthusiasts. Founded in 2002, they now call the St. Croix Falls Industrial Park their home after moving their headquarters from Hugo, MN to Wisconsin. Their signature products of ‘The German Horse Muffin’ and ‘Essential Equine’, use whole grain ingredients in the baking of their muffins and premium essential oils in their care products.
Equus Magnificus has a dedicated and growing customer base or equestrian owners, trainers, and vets across the county. Their products can be found online and at retailers across the county including Tractor Supply and many feed stores.
Kirk Anderson, City of St. Croix Falls Mayor (far right) presents the 2023 New Business of the Year Award to the leadership team at Equus Magnificus.
Business of the Year: Recognizing excellence in business performance along with its contribution to Polk County and its citizens.
OXBO is an industry-leading agricultural equipment company that develops, manufactures, distributes, and supports mechanized solutions for specialized agricultural markets worldwide. Their facility in Clear Lake is one of over seven facilities worldwide, manufacturing and supporting the specialized harvesting equipment for seed corn, sweet corn, green bean harvester and research plot combines. OXBO also offers specialized harvesting equipment for nutrient application, berries, coffee, commercial corn, fresh market vegetables, forage, olives, processed vegetables, seed corn and vineyard.
Oxbo has proudly called Clear Lake home since 1998. With almost 200 team members employed in Clear Lake, the community fits well with the company’s culture and business philosophy of integrity, innovation and a strong commitment to customer service.
The team of OXBO accepts the Polk County EDC 2023 Business of the Year Award.
Congratulations to all the award winners.