From “Startup benefits from business development center” — Jamie Veeser is confident in his abilities as a machinist, but owning a machine shop was at the edge of his expertise.

Veeser’s company, Machine-plus, which opened for business at the beginning of the year, is the first manufacturing tenant in the Advance Business & Manufacturing Center at 2701 Larsen Road, Green Bay, and the first to receive assistance from each of the incubator’s constituent agencies.

“Jamie is a pretty classic example,” said Chuck Brys, business counselor with the Small Business Development Center. “You understand they have the background to do it. The gap we try to fill is ‘You now have to sell yourself to somebody who’s going to finance this thing.'”

Financing was critical. Without it, there would be no business, but preparing a business plan that would satisfy lenders meant looking at the business in every detail.

“It’s kind of your book to business. It’s your guide,” Veeser said of the business plan.

He discovered there were little things he hadn’t thought of, such as including the cost of gasoline for his truck and assuming too much for the cost of a website.

Veeser had 15 years’ experience, was a graduate of Northeast Wisconsin Technical College’s machine tool program, and is in the window — five to 15 years after graduation — when most people are in a position to strike out on their own.

First, he approached Paul Carron, chapter chairman of SCORE, which also works at the incubator, to determine if he should even try.

“Was this a waste of my time? Should I go back to work?” he said. “You don’t get negative feedback, but I think they would have told me if it was a stupid idea. I realized I didn’t have enough experience after talking to (them).”

He got a job as the manager of a shop to add to that experience. He did that for a year, then it was back to getting a loan. His credit was good, but that means little in the current financial environment.

“Jamie is going to be pretty attractive (to conventional lenders) down the road, but getting a loan upfront was going to be nearly impossible,” Brys said. “You walk in as a startup, they look (at you) like you have a third eye in the middle of your forehead.”

In the end, he got a loan from the Advance Brown County Microloan Program, also housed at the center. That didn’t make it a slam dunk. Veeser had to make a presentation before the microloan board, made up of the same bankers who might not lend him money at their own institutions.

Fred Monique, vice president of economic development for the Green Bay Area Chamber of Commerce at Advance, called the microloan program “a game changer,” both because it has provided money to startups and businesses needing to expand that otherwise would be unable to do so, and because the process requires the kind of comprehensive look at the business plan that Veeser experienced.

“It’s huge,” Brys said. “When the machine hit the ground, he knew where his first customers were. That is a result of his knowledge and the business plan.”

Advance moved to the center adjacent to NWTC in 2005 with a goal of luring more high-tech and manufacturing businesses. Mostly, its been home to service businesses. It added the manufacturing bays in 2010 and changed its name to put more emphasis on manufacturing. The microloan program is another piece to completing that puzzle, though it’s made its share of service-business loans as well.

Veeser’s shop consists of a bay in the Advance manufacturing area. He has a CNC machining center, a lathe and a drill press. A corner of the bay is set aside for a small office, occupied by an office administrator.

“They said, ‘Get help.’ They said I needed an administrator, and they were right,” he said. “I thought I could do it.”

He quickly discovered he’s already got enough to do. In fact, one of his first jobs required making individual parts, a time-consuming process that kept him from looking for new business. He’s already feeling the need for a machine operator.

“I have 32 students. Get over there now,” advised Mark Weber, dean of Trades & Engineering Technology at NWTC, who was sitting in on an interview with Veeser.

The technical school is connected with the incubator, physically and philosophically.

When Veeser’s Haas VF4 machining center arrived, it didn’t work properly. He’s worked with Haas Automation Inc. equipment his entire career, but wasn’t able to pinpoint the problem. Two instructors from NWTC helped sort it out.

The incubator provided Veeser with furniture, office supplies and other essentials, allowing the business to focus on what needs to be focused on, Brys said.

“Right down to the trash,” Veeser said. “They take care of that.”

From “Designers jamming out computer games at MATC” — A lot can be done in just 48 hours, including building a smart, fun computer game.

So is the challenge at Milwaukee Area Technical College, where dozens of growing game designers are scrambling to finish their projects today, part of a worldwide event called the Global Game Jam that started Friday.

The school is one of more than 240 venues in 46 countries running the software sprint, which tasks teams – made up of novices and professionals – with building games based on a theme, scoring the work and sharing it online.

It’s the second year in a row MATC has run a game jam, and the expectations are high.

“We had a great experience last year,” said Emil Harmsen, MATC’s jam organizer and game instructor at the school. “I do a very lean system of project management and software development. I can take total laymen, give them a small taste . . . and develop a working product. It opens their eyes to what little ceremony you need to develop a great project.”

Last year, some 25 jammers designed games for Milwaukee’s venue, and this year about 40 signed on for the challenge. The goal, Harmsen says, is to tap into aspiring talent, promote the school’s offerings and help the local games industry grow.

“Our program has been getting bigger every year,” Harmsen said of MATC’s computer simulation and gaming program. “Word is getting out that we have a great program for game creation because of the collaborative environment.”

One of the games emerging from MATC’s jam last year was a strategy game called “Zombees,” which is a tower defense challenge in which players defend their hives from zombie bees that are infected by parasites, fungus and disease.

“Zombees” was one MATC team’s answer to last year’s Global Game Jam theme centering on extinction, and the idea was inspired and grounded in science and the environment.

“We had to come up with something based on a real-world extinction model, and we knew that parasites and fungus are a real threat to bees,” Harmsen said.

In addition to brainstorming the mechanics, programming the software and designing the art, the team also heavily promoted its work over social media while it was still under construction, offering downloads of early builds so followers could play and provide feedback.

Using Facebook, the “Zombees” team scored about 13,000 plays of its game during the jam, garnering positive reviews.

“We got a lot of good exposure,” Harmsen said. “We hope to do the same this year by constantly updating.”

Harmsen described the social media-powered public testing of “Zombees” while it was still a work in progress as a form of crowd-sourced quality control, giving players input and getting them invested in the work early. Were there bugs in the early builds? Of course, and the early alpha testers help squash them.

“Using potential customers for play testing helps them feel like they are influencing the game,” Harmsen said, inviting the public to keep up with this year’s jam through the Facebook page for MATC’s student gaming group, or its website.

This year, in addition to more students, graduates also signed up for the jam, which costs $20 to enter to cover the school’s expenses. MATC will have multiple cameras streaming live video over MPTV’s online channel on Ustream so spectators can peer in remotely.

Jammers discovered the theme of this year’s challenge Friday, and teams can also select options from a group of design challenges that will influence their project.

For example, design teams can decide to include features like having one character in a game controlled by multiple people. Not quite up for engineering an electronic game? No problem, jammers can also build board games to meet the challenge.

Harmsen said he would commandeer the most inexperienced game jammers and lead them in a friendly competition against some of the more veteran game makers. In addition to MATC, jam sites are also being hosted in Madison and at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

“It is pick up and play for anyone interested in trying game development,” Harmsen said. “I’ll be going up against my old team from last year, and we want to do better every year.”

From “Inmates receive hands-on career guidance” — OSHKOSH – These tech school instructors from Northeast Wisconsin Technical College took their classroom on the road. But Friday’s demonstration was a little different. The students are all inmates.

“This right here opens a whole other door for me,” said inmate Brad Porter, who said he’d been incarcerated since 1992 for attempted homicide, and could soon be released.

This mobile CNC machinist demonstration unit usually makes stops at high schools and other community events. But through a partnership with the Bay Area Workforce Development Board, it came to the Oshkosh Correctional Institute.

“There are four things that research shows make a difference when guys get out. It’s housing, employment, treatment and support, so the employment piece is very vital,” said Jim Golembeski, the director of the Bay Area Workforce Development Board.

The Department of Corrections says when people leave correctional institutions it can be hard to find a job. But the key is having direction and having some training.“They have a better chance of succeeding if they are employed,” said Warden Judy Smith.The Department of Corrections says it costs $30,000 a year to house an inmate.

So, helping them find their way before re-entry through programs like this…could save taxpayers money.

“It’s given them some hope because a lot have a very tough road ahead of them,” said Smith.

After sitting in the seminar, inmates say the future looks less bleak.

“It’s still kind of reeling in my mind because there is so much available to me, it changes the direction I was planning on going in,” said Porter.

Porter described that he had been in prison since he was 18. Now nearly 40, he’s looking for a way to find a good career and start over.

Inmates we spoke with say the dream they now have of one day designing fashioning these metal parts could keep them out from behind these tall metal fences.

This week was the first session at any of the local correctional institutions for the mobile technical training unit. Next week, it will be visiting a women’s correctional facility outside of Fond du Lac.

From “Future 15” — Matthew Petersen isn’t your stereotypical scientist –old, messy hair, a mad twinkle in his eye. In fact, at 31-years-old, Petersen is younger than the majority of his students at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.

Read more from

SWTC Board member honored

January 27, 2012

From “Congratulations to Southwest Tech Board Member Russ Moyer” — Russ Moyer, a Southwest Tech District Board Member since January 1981, received well-deserved recognition this weekend. He was named the Wisconsin Technical College District Boards Association’s 2012 Board Member of the Year!

Russ is a dairy farmer from Barneveld, Wisconsin. During his thirty-one years of service on the Southwest Tech District Board he has been chair four times. He has also served on numerous Board committees and has been instrumental in making professional development, governance education, and participation in the Wisconsin Technical College District Boards Association standard practice at Southwest Tech. His leadership, contributions, and thoughtful, friendly voice continue to make a difference in Southwest Wisconsin and in the lives of thousands of students, hundreds of staff members, and his fellow Board members.

As the longest serving board trustee in the Wisconsin Technical College System, he has also distinguished himself through service at the state and national level. Over the years, he has actively served on numerous District Boards Association committees, including the Human Resources, Legislative, Programs, State Director’s Budget, Bylaws, Policies, Resolutions, and Executive Director Search committees. He currently services as Vice President of the District Boards Association Executive Committee. At the national level, Russ serves on the Association of Community College Trustees Central Region Nomination Committee and has been a routine participant in ACCT’s Community College National Legislative Summits. In fact, he and I will be among those participating in the 2012 Summit next month for the purpose of speaking with Wisconsin’s congressional delegation about the importance of community and technical colleges.

Congratulations again to Russ! He is the third Southwest Tech District Board Member to earn distinction as a District Boards Association’s Board Member of the Year. The two previous awardees from Southwest Tech were Walter Calvert in 1978 and Ruth Mundt in 2003.

The Wisconsin Technical College District Boards Association is a private, non-profit organization comprised of the 144 district board members of Wisconsin’s sixteen technical college districts. The Association is a forum where the trustees of Wisconsin’s locally-governed, community-based technical colleges can come together to learn, share ideas, promote, and otherwise work together for the advancement of Wisconsin’s technical colleges. Paul Gabriel serves as the Association’s Executive Director.

From “Obama’s call for older dropout age already reality in Wisconsin” — Local educators had no cause to bristle when President Obama called for states to keep students in high school until age 18 in his annual address to Congress earlier this week.

Even though most states let students drop out at 16 or 17, Wisconsin is one of the exceptions. Students in the La Crosse area – and the rest of the state – must stay in school through their 18th birthday.

But changing the law can only do so much, and local educators say the key to keeping students interested in school is with active support.

“You can’t just say we’re going to change the graduation rate or the exit age and expect things to get better,” said Fran Finco, superintendent for the Onalaska School District. “There has to be programming.”

In 2010, 30 states allowed students to drop out before age 18, including Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Before Wisconsin lawmakers raised the dropout age to 18, schools would frequently hear back from wayward students who regretted their premature departure, Finco said.

“They would figure out the error of their ways,” Finco said. “And then they would turn around and come back.”

Now, when a student who is younger than 18 continually dodges class, La Crosse and Onalaska school officials contact the student, his parents and sometimes law enforcement, depending on the severity of the situation.

By asking other states to follow Wisconsin’s example, Obama is promoting an educational system that puts more belief in its students, said Randy Nelson, superintendent for the La Crosse School District.

“This would push the envelope and require that the school and the student does not give up on one another,” Nelson said.

But if Obama’s aim is to improve the number of students who are ready for a career or college by the time they leave high school, educators will have to do much more than fall back on state law, Finco said.

In La Crosse schools, educators give shorter schedules for at-risk students, who can use chunks of the day for work-study. The district also has alternative programs with specialized coursework, thanks to a partnership with Western Technical College, Nelson said.

Onalaska schools rolled out a network of supports to help keep students in school, and have since benefited with improved graduation rates, Finco said.

The Onalaska Alternative Services and Instruction School, located in the high school, gives at-risk students a more flexible environment for learning, with online instruction.

The high school also builds in “intervention” class periods, to give students more one-on-one time with teachers in classes where they struggle.

Even in states where the legal drop-out age is 16 or 17, schools should be taking advantage of similar programs, Finco said. Ensuring a full education for all students takes constant adaptation.

“We had to adjust what we did,” Finco said. “We continually tweak things to meet the needs of all the kids.”‘

From “Kuczers named state’s ‘Outstanding Young Farmers'” — 

Shawano County cattle feeders Adam and Rebecca Kuczer were named Wisconsin’s Outstanding Young Farmers last weekend. The Pulaski couple was chosen from among eight producers competing for the 2012 title. Meantime, the 2011 OYFs, Brian and Renee Schaal, Burlington, will be competing early next month in Arkansas with 10 producers around the country for this year’s national title.

Though the weekend selection process and banquet was held in Marshfield, the event was hosted by the JCI Greenfield chapter. (JCI Wisconsin was formerly known as the Wisconsin Jaycees, an organization of young professionals, ages 18 to 40, who are developing personal and leadership skills and making a difference in their communities through volunteering.)

With each new day comes opportunity for growth and change; that’s why the Kuczers chose their joint career in farming-for the day-to-day challenges. Extremely proud of what they do, these beef producers are articulate spokespeople for Wisconsin agriculture, focused on making connections with other producers and especially the non-farm public.

They farm 443 acres (410 tillable), growing 220 acres of corn, 110 of soybeans, 40 of wheat and 50 of hay. What doesn’t feed their cattle (between 250 and 300 head) is sold as cash crops. The Kuczers source 300 to 400-pound Holstein calves and take them to finish. Being Wisconsin is the “Dairy State,” Adam notes “Holstein bull calves are easy to come by,” and he’s “always looking for good suppliers.” He follows a regular vaccination protocol. Cattle are raised in five lots and segregated. He markets at local auction barns, but is intent on increasing direct-to-the-consumer freezer-meat sales.

Adam was raised on his parents’ dairy farm (Tom and Linda Kuczer). From early on, he knew farming was the career for him. After high school, he attended Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, and though he took a job in metal fabrication, he still helped out on the home farm. It wasn’t long before his dad approached Adam with the idea of working fulltime as the farm’s mechanic.

The first equipment Adam purchased was an excavator, which he used for ditching and clearing fence lines on the farm. He also did some custom work on his own, and over time, bought more machinery and then 120 acres, which he cash cropped, sharing equipment with his parents. The young producer’s finances were kept separate from his folks’ as he built equity and gained management experience.

In 2003, Adam married Rebecca, who was also from Pulaski, though not from a farm. Together, the newlyweds continued to work the farm, and built a new home. In 2007, the dairy cows were sold, as the younger generation transitioned the business to steers and cash crops. These 2012 state Outstanding Young Farmers purchased the operation in 2010.

Rebecca explains that the decision to raise steers instead of milking cows was based on how the two enterprises would “affect family.” Raising beef would “allow more time together” and provide more “flexibility with family” activities, she explains. The Kuczers have four children-Nicholas, 6; Sawyer, 4; and 1-year-old twins, Clara and Cadence. When she and Adam were called to the microphone to accept their prestigious award last weekend, Rebecca said “the day I found out I was having twins felt like I was dreaming.” Being named Wisconsin Outstanding Young Farmers is every bit as dream-like. “Someone give me a pinch,” she said. “It doesn’t feel real!”

Rebecca later emphasized how a farm is a “great place to raise a family.” The Kuczer kids, she notes, spend many happy hours in their oversized sandbox, made with some 20 yards of sand.

Farming, however, has also held many challenges for this young family. Switching from dairy to beef demanded they extensively remodel facilities. Stalls were removed from the dairy barn, which was converted to storage. Lots were constructed for the cattle, as was drive-by bunk feeding. Heated waterers were added, along with a squeeze chute, scale and tub pen for handling, sorting and loading cattle. They redesigned their grain bin system, put up a 20 X 90 silo, built a new expanded feed room and re-roofed a barn.

In 2004-Adam and Rebecca’s first full year farming together-a long wet spring prevented planting. Rather than plant in July, they decided to use the rest of the year to tile their land. They bought a tile plow and installed 50,000 feet of drainage tile to improve their cropland. They installed another 50,000 feet two years later.

In 2007, Adam’s dad needed a second hip replacement. Having a strategic plan helped insure all the work could still get done and overcome that labor challenge. Finally, in 2010-the year the Kuczers purchased the farm-lightning caused a fire that destroyed a barn (storing all their dry hay) as well as a silo of high moisture corn.

Despite these adversities, the Kuczers persevered with their dreams and have continued to make progress.

Conservation is front and center in the operation. A duck scrape was constructed, and they’ve planted 5,000 black spruce and four one-acre foot plots for wildlife. Grass waterways and filter strips protect water quality. Adam does two-and-a-half-acre GPS grid soil testing and has built a variable rate fertilizer spreader, which saves money by better tailoring applications within fields and is better environmentally, too. He’s also switched from plowing to deep tillage to break compaction and allow better drainage. A single tillage pass in the spring saves fuel and keeps residue on top, preventing erosion and runoff. He uses a two-pass system for herbicide and nitrogen applications, and relies on an AgLeader monitoring system and GPS to monitor planting rates.

All this fine-tuning in the fields paid off last year, with some of his fields averaging 220 bushels of corn and 65 bushels of soybeans. Their goals are to acquire additional acreage to cash crop and maintain 300 head of cattle on their place at all times. They market 150 head a year. They’d also like to sell their beef directly to consumers, eventually being able to keep a state-approved freezer stocked with cuts.

Their focus on improvements also paid off by, of course, being selected from a field of eight candidates as Wisconsin’s Outstanding Young Farmers, by a trio of judges: Anne Berg, assistant vice president and team leaders with Badgerland Financial in Mondovi; Tom Drendel, former superintendent of the UW’s Marshfield Ag Research Station, now ag safety specialist with the National Farm Medicine Center in Marshfield; and Doug Urban, registered Holstein and Brown Swiss breeder at Milladore and 1993 state OYF competitor.

The Kuczers are very active off their farm, especially with Farm Bureau. They’re serving on the state Farm Bureau Young Farmer Committee. Adam, 36, has also been Farm Bureau Young Farmer chair in his county for five years, and is presently Shawano County Farm Bureau vice president.

This couple participates in the Shawano County Brunch on the Farm, specifically organizing the kiddie pedal tractor pull. It’s an opportunity for them to “let people know where their food comes from,” says Rebecca. While they’re running this fun children’s event, she says “people find us very approachable.” It’s a natural venue for telling non-farmers about agriculture-something very important to the Kuczers, who are serious promoters of their industry. Adam feels it’s his responsibility to get involved, speak up and let the public know how he takes care of his animals and is intent on producing a “good quality product,” so “somebody else isn’t talking for us.”

Rebecca admits it’s a challenge trying to divvy up their time among the farm, family and their off-farm involvements. They enjoy networking with other young farmers through Farm Bureau, as well as last weekend’s OYF competition.

Adam is also involved in the Tri County Snow Riders snowmobile club and Pulaski Chase Cooperative. Rebecca is the reporter for the Northeastern Wisconsin Miniature Horse Club. She helps with chores on the farm and handles all the bookwork.

“We love to share what we do with others. What we do (i.e. farming) is so personal to us,” says Rebecca from her heart.


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