Midwest Partnership banquet highlights awards, successes

Two Audubon businesses were honored at the Midwest Partnership Economic Development (MWP) annual dinner meeting on January 26 at the Lake Panorama National Conference Center.

Midwest Partnership EDC serves Adair, Audubon, Green and Guthrie counties.

The Guy Powell Award was presented to Ben and Kathy Puck of Puck Custom Enterprises, Inc., a manure application business, for their leadership and passion for economic development. The business has grown with the development of its dragline application process. It now manufactures 24 unique products, employs 60 people, and exports to a number of countries. The Pucks have been strong supporters of Audubon County economic development efforts, said Brett Irlmeier, outgoing president of MWP.

Ben Puck said support of the community has been important to the company’s success.

Entrepreneur of the Year recognition went to Meg and Chad Gleason, owners of Moglea, a design and letterpress studio creating hand-crafted paper goods. The company employs eight full time and eight part time staff members and receives orders from many countries. Meg Gleason said the company plans to expand to more household items such as blankets and candles. She said they started with making cards and “no idea of what we were doing,” but with the support of those around them, she said they continued to grow. 

After the awards were presented, highlights of the last year were reviewed, including new businesses Nutriom in Panora, which purchased the former Cargill facility and is expected to employ 12 people once the plant is converted, and Waspy’s Truck Stop in Audubon, scheduled to open in the spring.

Expansions of the following businesses were noted: AMVC, Bauer Built Manufacturing, Herbers Seed, Puck Custom Enterprises, Inc., Scranton Manufacturing Co., Inc. and Wausau Supply Company.

Events held included EntreBASH, a resource fair for small business owners, attended by 52 people at Warren Cultural Center in Greenfield; Employer Educator Summit, which brings business and education leaders together to share ideas on retaining graduates in the area, held at Wild Rose Casino in Jefferson with 225 in attendance; and the MWP golf outing fundraiser and networking event held at Lake Panorama National Golf Course with 32 teams participating.

In addition, MWP worked with area businesses on business retention and development and followed up on 22 business leads, said Executive Director Sarah Gomez. 

A laborshed study was conducted and found 134,000 people are in the workforce, 49 is the average age of the workforce, $15 is the average wage, $55,000 is the average salary and 76 percent of the workforce is educated beyond high school. Healthcare is the area’s top industry. 

Irlmeier conducted the business meeting and introduced the new president of the board, John Rutledge, of the Lake Panorama Association.

Other 2017 Board of Directors members are: Irlmeier, Audubon State Bank; Cheryl Marks, Rolling Hills Bank & Trust of Stuart; Douglas Burns, Herald Publishing (publishers of the Adair County Free Press, Fontanelle Observer, Guthrie County Vadette and Guthrie Center Times); Everett Grasty, Guthrie County Supervisor; Jason Hocker, AMVC of Audubon; Jerry Sullivan, Farmers State Bank of Yale; Laurie Gilbert, Audubon County Economic Development; Marty Doud, First State Bank of Stuart; Matt Wedemeyer, Adair County supervisor; Mike Underwood, Guthrie County State Bank; Norm Fandel, Midland Power Cooperative in Jefferson; Peggy Toft, Spartan Insurance of Exira; Rick Morain, community leader in Jefferson; Scott Tonderum, Greenfield Municipal Utilities; Sid Jones, Home State Bank of Jefferson; Stacie Hull, Greenfield Chamber/Main Street and Economic Development; Todd Nelsen, Audubon County Supervisor; Travis Warnke, B&D Manufacturing, Inc. of Scranton; Troy Wessel, Landmands Bank of Audubon; Warren Varley, Varley Law Firm in Stuart.

Outgoing board members recognized were Kyle Orris, Lisa Jaskey, Lyle Hansen, Jr., and Gary Haverman.

The staff members of MWP are Executive Director Sarah Gomez, Economic Development Coordinator Stacie Euken and Administrative and Marketing Coordinator Lynsi Pasutti.

Dr. Daryl Olsen, partner in another Audubon business, AMVC, was the guest speaker. AMVC began as a private veterinarian practice with eight employees and has grown to include a staff of over 550 doing business in 14 different states.

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