Friday, December 19, 2008

Sun Prairie, Collaboration Council Adopt Regional Principles of Collaboration (Wisconsin State Journal, Sun Prairie Star)

More than four years after its inception, the 56-member Collaboration Council has drawn what it calls a road map to business development and cooperation among communities in southern Wisconsin that for decades have competed for tax base.

On Dec. 16th, key leaders who represent more than 991,000 people in eight counties signed the Regional Principles of Collaboration, a landmark agreement intended to help guide economic development.

Acting on a recommendation from the committee of the whole, aldermen approved the THRIVE regional principles of collaboration that same day. Adopting the principles demonstrates the city's agreement to support collaborative strategies of an eight-county region to enhance regional culture, sustainable growth and the highest quality of life.

This doesn't mean that we won't have our issues to work out between our neighbors, and it doesn't mean we won't be competing for projects. What it means is that we all need to work together to grow our current employment base that's already here. It means getting companies and people interested in our region as a whole (if they aren't looking at the region they'll never get to us as a City). Finally, it means abiding by certain protocols when marketing our City vs. another within the area.

There will be a lot of work that needs to be done to make the words on the paper reflect how we all operate on a day to day basis. Creation and adoption of these principles is a great first step.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Capital Times Editorial Features Sun Prairie (Capital Times)

Photo by Michelle Stocker, Capital Times

Special thanks to Mike Ivey for his editorial on Sun Prairie's growth. Too many people in the Greater Madison area don't realize all the good things we have going over here, and it helps when guys like Mike take the time to learn more about the community. Here's to giving Mike some more good things to write about in 2009!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Sun Prairie Based TECO Tests Bats for Major League Baseball (

When many baseball fans watch a shattering baseball bat, they see brute strength tearing into a bat. But when research engineer Dave Kretschmann, of the US Forest Products Lab, watched it, he saw a design flaw.

Kretschmann and a Sun Prairie wood testing and certification agency, TECO, collected more than 2,000 broken bats from Major League Baseball.

They catalogued them all and discovered that the ones in pieces had a spiraled grain in the handle. They tested theories on wood dowels in the USDA Forest Products Lab to see how straight the grain needed to be, and then researchers in Massachusetts tested real bats. In the end, the team developed nine recommendations, which were adopted this week by MLB. The recommendations changed the look and makeup of maple bats.

TECO Inc. in Sun Prairie will also be working with manufacturers of bats on new techniques to produce them as well as creating a quality-control audit system.

UPDATE: Click here for additional coverage at

Friday, December 12, 2008

Sun Prairie Based Wisconsin Public Power Inc. Changes Its Name to WPPI Energy (Press Release)

Wisconsin Public Power Inc. has become WPPI Energy. The change was approved today at a meeting of the WPPI Energy Board of Directors. A new tagline – the way energy should be – and a new logo also were adopted to complement and highlight the company’s updated identity. “WPPI Energy is the best way to identify the company we’ve become,” said WPPI Energy President and CEO Roy Thilly. “It also provides quick description of what we do – provide reliable, affordable electric power to member communities for the long term.”

WPPI Energy was founded in 1980 by 23 Wisconsin municipal utilities, establishing it as the state’s first municipal electric power company. The most recently added member – Preston, Iowa – brings WPPI Energy’s membership to 50.

Thilly said the new name, tagline and logo are meant to enhance the company’s strengths. Long committed to renewable energy, energy efficiency and conservation, WPPI Energy is leading the way in all three areas:

WPPI Energy will have sufficient resources in place six years early – in 2009 – to meet the Wisconsin and Michigan requirements that 10 percent of all electric energy in the states be supplied from renewable resources by 2015.

In the past three years, WPPI Energy has tripled funding for energy efficiency and conservation programs, from $2.38 million in 2006 to $9 million in 2009.

Illustrating its commitment, WPPI Energy broke ground this fall on a $6.9 million, 49,705-square-foot remodel and expansion project at its Sun Prairie headquarters, which is being built to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, New Construction Gold standards for energy efficiency and sustainability.

The new logo, three blue half circles joined together, identifies WPPI Energy as a strong public power partner.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Sun Prairie Companies Make Their Mark on In Business Magazine's 2009 Book of Lists

In Business Magazine ranks companies on multiple criteria each year in its annual book of lists. Several Sun Prairie companies are flexing their muscle and moving up in several key categories, including...

Fastest Growing Company (#1)
Wisconsin Distributors

A big red "1" appears in front of Wisconsin Distributors on Page 18 of this months "Book of Lists" supplement to In Business Magazine under the ranking of Fastest Growing Compaines in the Greater Madison area. Their reported revenue went from $57 million in 2006 to $90 million in 2007--a 57.9% growth in revenue, clearly making them the #1 fastest growing company in the region.

Wisconsin Distributors is a wholesale distributor for Anheuser-Busch products located in the Sun Prairie Business Park.

Congratulations (or should I say "Cheers!") to all the employees at Wisconsin Distributors for this tremendous success.

Click here for more information on Wisconsin Distributors.

Contact Neil Stechschulte at or (608) 825-0894 for additional information on the Sun Prairie Business Park.

Top 25 Revenue Generators (#7)
QBE Regional Insurance (General Casualty)

QBE was listed as posting $1.07 billion in revenue in 2007 with 824 employees (now closer to 900 employees with more thought to be on the way). QBE insures homes, autos and businesses in 25 states.

QBE, which bought General Casualty and related companies for $1.16 billion early last year, has big plans for the Sun Prairie campus, which is slated to become one of two QBE data centers worldwide. The parent company is consolidating operations around the country and moving jobs to Sun Prairie in support areas that include information technology, finance, human resources and actuarial services.

QBE is located at the northeast corner of Hwy. 19 and Grand Ave. (CTH C) in Sun Prairie's Westside Neighborhood.

Click here for more information on
QBE and General Casualty.

Top 25 Revenue Generators (#16)
Independent Pharmacy Cooperative (IPC)

IPC was listed as posting $572 million in revenue in 2007 with 60 employees (now closer to 75). Over the past 25 years, IPC has evolved into the nations’ largest group purchasing organization for independent pharmacies.

IPC represents 3,200 primary and 2,500 affiliate pharmacy members whose purchases exceed 8 billion dollars. Located in Sun Prairie, WI and staffed by just 75 employees, IPC prides itself on providing the most progressive and effective programs and services to put profit back in the independent pharmacy.

Click here for more information on Independent Pharmacy Cooperative (IPC).

Click here for more information on In Business Magazine and their 2009 Book of Lists.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Dane County YES Seeks Business Plan Entries from Sun Prairie High School Youth (Wisconsin Technology Council)

What is Dane County YES?
Youth Entrepreneurs in Science, or Dane County YES, is a youth version of the successful Governor’s Business Plan Contest, which recently completed its fifth year. YES will bring Dane County youth, educators and people working in the region’s commercial tech sectors together in a contest forum. Contestants will be challenged to develop innovative tech-based business solutions across a broad range of technologies.

What’s the goal of a business plan contest for young people?
It will help young people learn how science and technology innovations can be developed into solid business plans. This multi-stage, primarily online contest will help middle- and/or high-school students to better envision careers in science and technology, and especially where those disciplines intersect with the creation and growth of businesses.

We’ll interpret a tech-based business plan broadly. For example, a web-based business may qualify.

Building a more entrepreneurial and tech-savvy workforce is a challenge not only for Dane County and Wisconsin, but the United States as a whole as the nation struggles to produce a globally competitive pool of workers. One current example is the emerging gap between jobs in the information technology sector and the number of anticipated graduates in that field. By 2012, according to industry and UW-Madison estimates, there will be four available IT jobs for every graduate.

Who may enter the contest?
Students, or small teams of students, who attend middle and high schools in Dane County. The contest will be judged according to class categories: 9th grade and under, 10th grade, 11th grade and 12th grade. It will be conducted in stages, with a numerical scoring system spread across the eight major parts of a business plan.

Why should I enter?
For starters, you may win valuable cash or in-kind prizes to be awarded to place winners in each category.

But there’s more. Entering will help you transcend classroom learning by engaging in a hands-on exercise that applies what you have learned. You will increase your understanding of entrepreneurial principles and business leadership. You will learn about careers in STEM professions, and you may attract the eye of business leaders in need of promising interns.

You will attend a seminar, conducted by Wisconsin Technology Council staff and judges, which will serve as a “boot camp” for business plan writing.

There will be opportunities to measure how students improve in their understanding of what it takes to write a solid business plan.

What’s the basic timeline?

December 5, 2008 – First day 250-word entries can be posted on our website.
Jan. 31, 2009 – Deadline for contest entries; judging process begins
February 2009 – Hold “boot camp” for student entrepreneurs.
March 2009 – Begin second phase of contest; about 1,000 words in eight categories.
April 2009 – Close second phase and begin judging of business plan executive summaries.
May 2009 – Judging complete; hold “final four” oral presentations to select grand prize winner.
June 9-10, 2009 – Announce winners at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference.
June-July 2009 – Award prizes and conduct follow-up surveys.

This project is being funded by the Madison Community Foundation.

Click here for more information on the Wisconsin Technology Council and the Wisconsin Innovation Network.

Governor's Business Plan Contest Open for 2009 Entries (Wisconsin Technology Network News)

The Wisconsin Governor's Business Plan Contest - the nation's first statewide, tech-based business plan competition - is accepting entries online for the 2009 competition. Entries will be accepted Friday through 5 p.m. Jan. 31, 2009. The contest's Grand Prize is worth $50,000 in cash and services. For their initial entries, contestants will submit 250-word idea abstracts online at Contestants who advance to subsequent contest rounds will have the opportunity to expand their plan or idea. More than 60 judges drawn from the finance, sales, marketing, research and specific technology sectors will score the entries and provide feedback.

The mission of the contest is to encourage entrepreneurs in the creation, start-up and early-growth stages of high-tech businesses in Wisconsin. Since its inception in 2004, more than 1,300 entries have been received and nearly $850,000 in cash and in-kind prizes has been awarded. In 2008, 17 finalists won cash prizes. According to results of a fall 2008 survey of 2004-2008 finalists, more than half of those who responded have received financing for their plan through a variety of sources including angel and venture capital; and 75 percent of those who responded reported the contest led to an increase in public exposure for the company.

Wisconsin residents 18 years old and older are eligible, as are teams from Wisconsin-based businesses and organizations. Businesses or teams from outside the state are also eligible to compete so long as they plan to base their business in Wisconsin. Entrepreneurs may enter multiple ideas, so long as each idea is separate and distinct.

As with past contests, the 2009 competition will take place in three stages:

In the “Business Concepts” phase, which is open until Jan. 31, 2009 at 5 p.m., the contest will accept IDEA Abstracts on the web site. IDEA abstracts are 250-word business concepts that will be graded on a scale of 1-10 (10 highest) by our judges. The top 50 IDEA Abstract presenters will be asked to write a Summary Business Plan.

In the “Summary Business Plan” phase, which runs from Feb. 23 to March 12, 2009, the top 50 IDEA Abstract presenters, plus ties, post their 1,000-word summaries online for comments by the judges. Contestants may be encouraged to revise their plans based on judges' comments. The top 20 plan summaries are selected for the final round.

In the “Final Business Plan” phase, which runs from April 2 to April 27, 2009, the top 20 Summary Plan presenters, plus ties, prepare final plans for judging. Limited comments and mentoring continues. Judges will review the plans and pick three place winners in each category.

The four category winners will present at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs' Conference, June 9-10 in Milwaukee; all prize winners will be announced there.