The Last Days of Summer

As much as I hate to admit it, it is that time of year. Sunset comes just a little bit earlier every day, the tall grasses are browning off and the sumac leaves are just starting to turn red. We have a few weeks of good weather to look forward to, but the beautiful weather won’t last that long. The end of summer means many things, one of the biggest being back to school for our children. Although I haven’t been out buying notebooks, pens and other school supplies, I am thinking and planning for the fall and winter ahead.

As a young child, I put things off as long as I could, especially if the task wasn’t something I really enjoyed doing. I can still hear my mother saying to me, “it would be a lot easier if you did just a little bit every day. The small steps add up fast. Before you know it you’ll have accomplished more than you can imagine.” Good advice, even if I didn’t follow it until later in life.

I was reminded of my mother’s words the other day at the Park Falls Area Business of the Year luncheon honoring Northwoods Community Credit Union. Northwoods was started back in 1953 as the Flambeau Paper Employees Credit Union. It operated out of then President Lawrence Draxler’s basement with one part-time employee and $710.50 in assets at the end of its first year. Today, Northwoods has three branches, over 30 employees, $78 million in assets, and almost 8,000 members. For well over 50 years, Northwoods has taken the small steps, serving the needs of its members every day. Along the way, it has become an integral part of the community.

In a few days, I’ll be attending another business of the year ceremony in Ashland. Back in 1890 Christopher George Bretting purchased the Parish Manufacturing Company and changed the name to C. G. Bretting Manufacturing. For five generations this family-owned firm has prospered in Northern Wisconsin and donated generously to the greater Ashland community. Over the course of 125 years, the Bretting family has established and maintained a reputation for top quality products and excellent customer service.

The hard work and local focus of businesses like the Northwoods Community Credit Union and C. G. Bretting Manufacturing are our best tools for economic growth. I was proud to join the Ashland Area Development Corporation and the Park Falls Area Community Development Corporation in saluting these two great businesses. Like many other small businesses across Northern Wisconsin, they are the key to building a better future for our families, friends and neighbors.

Later this morning I will attend the 2015 Lake Superior Business & Technology Conference sponsored by the Lake Superior chapter of the Wisconsin Innovation Network and the Wisconsin Technology Council. I look forward to hearing from the members of our business community, including Willard Ogren, President, Security State Bank and Mark Tyler, President, OEM Fabricators.

Working closely with partners in the state’s excellent Technical College and UW-Extension system, Northern Wisconsin’s small businesses can spur growth and lay the groundwork for sustained economic opportunity. With an eye on the future and an ear for my mother’s advice, I am confident we can create a brighter future that builds on the unique strengths of our land and our people. As our children get ready to go back to school, we need to concentrate on building a future for them here.