2018 Business of the Year winners (L to R) Shawn Kline and Jeremy Austrum of Next Generation Auto (Small Business of the Year), Rob O’Keefe, St. Croix EDC Past President and program emcee, Steve Schmidt, iMARK Molding (Business of the Year), and Jim Bradac of St. Croix Valley Blow Molding, (Emerging Business of the Year). Submitted photo
2018 Business of the Year winners (L to R) Shawn Kline and Jeremy Austrum of Next Generation Auto (Small Business of the Year), Rob O’Keefe, St. Croix EDC Past President and program emcee, Steve Schmidt, iMARK Molding (Business of the Year), and Jim Bradac of St. Croix Valley Blow Molding, (Emerging Business of the Year). Submitted photo

Submitted by Bill Rubin/Nita Dusek, St. Croix EDC

HUDSON, WI – On Thursday, February 21, 2019 St. Croix Economic Development Corporation (EDC) honored its 2018 Business of the Year winners at a banquet hosted by Ready Randy’s in rural New Richmond, Wisconsin. The 2018 honorees include iMARK Molding, Inc. (Village of Woodville; ‘Business of the Year’), Next Generation Automotive (Village of Baldwin and City of Hudson; ‘Small Business of the Year’) and St. Croix Valley Blow Molding LLC (Town of Hudson; ‘Emerging Business of the Year’).

Rob O’Keefe, the EDC’s immediate past president and member of the executive committee, served as the evening’s emcee.

iMARK Molding is located in the Village of Woodville and was launched in 2000 by Mark Surtevant. His wife Linda is also active in the business. The company supports medical device injection molding original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), including Fortune 500 companies, within numerous specialty categories as well as product development and manufacturing for drug delivery, pharmaceuticals, diagnostics and bio-tech/bio-science. The company is in the process of completing an $18 million expansion that commenced in November 2017. The crown jewel of the expansion is a 22,500 square foot pharma-grade cleanroom that will meet the needs of Wisconsin’s bio-health industry as well as the needs of life science companies nationwide. In early 2018, iMARK was honored by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) as the recipient of a Special Award for Enterprise Precision. iMARK also partnered with two other injection manufacturers in 2014 and formed the St. Croix County Manufacturing Consortium which received two Wisconsin Fast Forward workforce training grants from the state’s Department of Workforce Development. St. Croix EDC awarded iMARK Molding its 2003 Emerging Business of the Year award.

Next Generation Automotive started in the Village of Baldwin in 2011 by business partners Jeremy Austrum and Shawn Kline. Three years later a larger shop in Baldwin was acquired by the partners to meet the growing needs of their company. In the summer of 2017 Next Generation opened its second location in Hudson. Austrum and Kline regularly give back to their communities. Kline is often a visiting instructor in automotive technician classes at the Baldwin-Woodville High School. A ‘Deserving Rides’ program began in 2014 and a winning nominee is awarded a vehicle that is fully reconditioned to look and drive like new. From mid-October to the weekend before Thanksgiving, Next Generation uses a portion of the proceeds from service and repairs to buy needed items for local food pantries. In 2018 alone, $1,800 worth of turkeys and fixings were donated from the Turkey Drive.

St. Croix Valley Blow Molding is located in the Town of Hudson. It was launched in 2017 by Jim Bradac, who also owns and operates Ceme-Tube and other related companies, also located in the Town of Hudson. Ceme-Tube had an ongoing need for a blow molding partner and Bradac founded St. Croix Valley Blow Molding to bring those needs in-house. The company became operational in March 2018 and is reportedly the only large part blow molder for 100 miles. A 7-axis robotics system provides options for secondary operations like trimming and drilling.

Each of the winners received a plaque from the EDC as well as a Legislative Citation from the State Senate and Assembly in Madison, and congratulatory letters from Mark Hogan, Chief Executive Office, Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC); U.S. Representative Sean Duffy; U.S. Senators Ron Johnson and Tammy Baldwin; and Town of Hudson, Village of Baldwin, City of Hudson, and Village of Woodville.

Past business of the year winners and recipients of the EDC Directors Award were introduced during the program.

Ken Heiser, who received the inaugural Directors Award in 2009, spoke to the attendees about the formation of the EDC in the early 1990’s and the progress he’s witnessed. Heiser served as the EDC’s first board president.

The 25th annual awards banquet was sponsored by several area businesses.

Congratulations to all of the winners!