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Stoughton Trailers receives 2019 WI Bus Achievement Award

By Tristan McGough
Special to The Reporter

La Crosse, WI. (October 25, 2019) – The Flowers Family Foundation, Inc. (FFF) has been acknowledging business excellence over the last five years through its annual Wisconsin Business Achievement Award that consists of not only a handsome plaque but a check in the amount of $75,000; and both plaque and prize were presented to the sixth award winner Stoughton Trailers, LLC at the Waterfront Restaurant & Tavern in La Crosse on Oct. 15, 2019.

The Flowers Family’s achievement award was originally designed by foundation co-founders Rockne and JoAnn Flowers to honor a worthy business demonstrating “its positive impact on the Wisconsin economy.” Now a yearly event, the award is one of the main charitable supports of the FFF, having become an established eleemosynary tradition.

However, the chosen business garnering the coveted award is not the final recipient of the $75,000 prize. The wonderful device incorporated into the WBAA program is that each awarded business must choose a charitable organization it wishes to give the money to, thereby enriching the community through the unique services offered by the decided-upon charity.

Past recipients of the pass-through have included Camp Hometown Heroes, Family Friendly Workplace, Fort Atkinson Boys and Girls Club, Fort Atkinson Fire Dept., Families Helping Families, United Way, and Couleecap, Inc., which assists low-income residents with securing a reliable vehicle to get to and from work.

The Flowers’ altruistic pot was seriously enlarged this year by award-winning Stoughton Trailers, which decided to match the WBAA $75 thousand with another $75K of its own, making for a $150,000 total to be given to its elected charity.

A global leader in transportation equipment, Stoughton Trailers chose a local organization to donate the compound award to: Stoughton Football, Inc. (SFI), which is a 501(c)3 organization offering an instructional football program for young athletes in grades 4th through 8th.

Scot Newman, Director of SFI, attended the award ceremony and was duly presented with the WBAA check, but only after preliminary formalities had been observed, including a review of and presentation from past award winners.

Once again, George Flowers served as a fluent and facile Master of Ceremonies, welcoming the bevy of business owners, past award winners, and guests to remarks on the mission and values of the FFF, explaining, “The purpose of the award is to recognize the winner in its role in supporting the Wisconsin Economy, hoping that publicity will encourage others.”

Subsequent to opening remarks, the awards pre-ceremony ritual continued with introductions to and presentations from the five previous winners of the prize, consisting of Kapco Metal Stamping, OEM Fabricators, L.B. White Company, the Fireside Dinner Theatre, and Kwik Trip.

Kapco Metal Stamping, Inc., located in Grafton, Wis. was the 2014 WBAA winner. The family-owned fabricating and stamping company donated its $50,000 prize money to Camp Hometown Heroes, which is a non-profit dedicated to honoring the heroes of the armed forces who have fallen since 9/11. The organization does this by actively embracing the children left behind in the wake of their parent’s absence. The Grafton camp, north of Milwaukee, offers week-long summer camp sessions, as well as other emotional healing programs, for children ages 7 through 17. All CHH’s programs are completely free of charge.

The 2015 award for business achievement went to OEM Fabricators, Inc., which is a one-stop shop delivering design, fabrication, machining, welding, finishing and assembly services at one of its three locations in Woodville, Neillsville and Phillips, all in Wisconsin. OEM chose the United Way of St. Croix Valley’s Success By 6 Vision Program to bequeath its prize money of $60,000. Their program focuses on giving children under six years of age the learning and social opportunities that will develop brains, giving them a cognitive edge as they learn how to compete in the modern information rich world.

L.B. White Company, Inc. was the 2016 WBAA winner, selected because of its innovative solutions in the heating industry, for which it manufactures forced air heaters, brooders, tube heaters and portable heaters. L.B. White divided the $75,000 it received from the FFF between Couleecap Work-n-Wheels Program and the Coulee Region Business Center (CRBC), each receiving $37,500. The Couleecap Work-n-Wheels Program offers zero interest auto loans to qualified low-income households, thereby helping them make it to work on time and the CRBC is a full service mixed-use incubator for new and emerging entrepreneurial companies in and around La Crosse.

In 2017, the FFF’s award went to the Fireside Dinner Theatre, which renowned entertainment complex also served as hosts for the Oct. 16, 2018 WBAA ceremony in Fort Atkinson. Fireside chose two organizations to donate the $75,000 it received for its outstanding impact on Wisconsin’s economy, the first being The Boys & Girls Clubs of Fort Atkinson, which got $25,000. The other recipient was the Fort Atkinson Fire Department. The $50,000 the FD received from the Fireside was used as seed money to raise the full $123,000 needed to purchase a new rescue squad.

The 2018 WBAA prize was awarded to the Kwik Trip chain, which is headquartered in La Crosse. It gave its award money to Families Helping Families (FHF), which is a tax-exempt, non-profit organization that is voluntarily funded by Kwik Trip co-workers. It provides timely assistance to any KT employee facing unexpected financial challenges. That can include medical bills, mortgage or rent assistance, as well as funds to assist in other, less conventional ways.

Like so many previous WBAA winners, the 2019 award winner is also a family-owned company that extends its familial touch to both employees and customers. In a press release announcing the company’s earning the award, Amy Mertz of Brick Road PR and Ron Jake of Stoughton Trailers stated, “Stoughton Trailers has evolved from trailer manufacturer to a one-stop semitrailer resource, from parts to trucking to financing is the fifth largest semitrailer manufacturer in the U.S., the second-largest manufacturer in Dane County, and one of the largest private manufacturing companies in Wisconsin, providing jobs for more than 1,600 people. Its operations are housed in seven Wisconsin facilities on four campuses, including corporate offices, sales offices and manufacturing plants in Stoughton, Evansville and Broadhead. The company remains a family business today since 1961.”

Informing the company of its selection for the 2019 award, Flowers Family Foundation President June Bunting said, “Stoughton Trailers is on a five-year run of record trailer production and the highest market share to date. Just in the last decade, employee headcount and revenues have grown six-fold.”

Ron Jake, Marketing Manager for Stoughton Trailers, remarked, “We’re very grateful to the Flowers Family Foundation for choosing Stoughton Trailers for this distinguished award. We’re also going to match it with another $75,000 to serve as seed-money that will go toward artificial turf to be installed at Collins Field.”

In the aforementioned press release, Stoughton High School Athletic Director Mel Dow expressed his thankfulness then went on to say, “This donation was a gracious surprise. The potential benefits of artificial turf include fewer weather-related cancellations, reduced maintenance costs, and expanded access to school and community programs. This donation provides generous seed money for our District and our stakeholders to explore private fundraising possibilities that could support this project.”

On behalf of Stoughton Football, Inc., Executive Director Scott Newman gladly accepted the award presented by Jake (see photo), offering another salvo of appreciation to both the trucking firm and family Flowers.

Then after, guests were treated to an exquisite luncheon and the idyllic scenery of the Mississippi River, its riparian foliage turning to Fall’s colors.

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George Flowers presents the 2019 WBAA plaque to Ron Jake of Stoughton Trailers at the Waterfront Restaurant. Photo by Tristan McGough

Winner of the 2019 Wisconsin Business Achievement Award, Stoughton Trailers, had its group of award recipients posing with members of the Flowers Family along the scenic embankment of the Mississippi River in La Crosse on Oct. 15, 2019, after the award ceremony. In the front row are: Rockne Flowers, Veronica Fleming, Kelli Wahlin, Roxanne Flowers and JoAnne Flowers. Back row: George Flowers, Chris Flowers, Tony Cords, Jeff Kratz, Scott Newman, Marc Meister, and Ron Jake. Scott Newman represented Stoughton Football, Inc., which was the recipient of both the $75,000 award from the Flowers Family vis-a-vis Stoughton Trailers and a matching $75,000 from Stoughton Trailers itself to, in Jake’s words, “seed a new foundation that will fund the installation of an artificial turf field at the high school in Stoughton for community use.” Photo by Tristan McGough

George Flowers presents the 2019 WBAA plaque to Ron Jake of Stoughton Trailers at the Waterfront Restaurant. Photo courtesy of the Bryant Foundation