Skyward thanks community for support
Written by Nathan Vine, Stevens Point Journal Media
Fighting back tears, Skyward CEO Cliff King declared Wednesday one of the greatest days of his life.
King was speaking to a group of his company’s employees, state legislators, community members and local leaders during a celebration event the company held at the SentryWorld Sports Center.
While acknowledging local support over the past two years as the software company fought against a state decision to implement a single-vendor student information system, Skyward officials also used the event to unveil plans for a multimillion-dollar world headquarters to be built in Stevens Point and new jobs that will push the company to more than 1,000 employees in the next decade.
“I guess it just kind of all came to a head for me,” King said. “To know everything we’ve gone through and all the support we’ve received, and now to be able to talk about being here going forward, it’s special.”
After originally opting for a single-vendor student information system to be included in the 2013-15 state budget, the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee on May 29 removed almost $14 million in funding for that project. Instead, the JFC voted to require the state Department of Public Instruction to develop a multivendor system.
Skyward, which had lost the statewide single-vendor contract to Minnesota-based Infinite Campus, was appealing that decision to the Department of Administration when the JFC voted on the multivendor system. Company officials said the company would have moved to Texas or Florida without the contract.
Gov. Scott Walker, who attended Wednesday’s event, credited Skyward’s management and employees for their passion and commitment to remaining in the state.
“This is a company that is showing tremendous growth, and I want to thank them for their investment in Wisconsin,” Walker said.
Several speakers acknowledged the role that a group of central Wisconsin-based state legislators played in the process, including Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, and Reps. Scott Krug, R-Rome, Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point, John Spiros, R-Marshfield, and Amy Sue Vruwink, D-Milladore.
Krug admitted the multivendor system was a “hard sell” in the Republican caucus, but he said local legislators worked together to keep pushing for support. Shankland, meanwhile, said the group was helped by the constant drumbeat of support from community members who contacted lawmakers on Skyward’s behalf.
“I can’t tell you how many emails and letters I received from people wanting to know what was going on or asking what they could do to help,” Shankland said. “The grass-roots support Skyward received played a huge role in making this day possible.”
Bill Fonti, chief executive of Plover-based Furniture and ApplianceMart, said he was among those fighting to keep Skyward in central Wisconsin. He traveled to Madison in May as part of a group of Skyward supporters who met with state legislators.
“The more I found out what was happening, the more I felt like it was wrong,” Fonti said. “There were so many families who would have been affected by this, but now we’re talking about all the growth we will see. It’s very exciting to be at this point.”