Sunday, February 26, 2012

Food and jobs - "Don't Mock the Artisinal Pickle Makers"

Our Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen is helping pioneer new business models for developing sustainable artisan food businesses. We are helping to create new tools and markets for growing businesses and creating jobs through local foods and regional food systems.

There was a great story in the New York Times recently, by Adam Davidson of NPR's Planet Money.

This idea of small batch manufacturing has been emerging and getting better all my life. It was the core of our business model for the 25 years we ran our first startup.

Now I have the honor to work with the emerging capacity of the Innovation Kitchens to make small batch artisan foods for safe, legal, commercial sale to the public.

This is a great way to grow new businesses, create jobs, and rebuild the economy.

The quotes below are from the New York Times (emphasis added).

Don't Mock the Artisinal Pickle Makers

"It's tempting to look at craft businesses as simply a rejection of modern industrial capitalism. But the craft approach is actually something new — a happy refinement of the excesses of our industrial era..."

"As other countries move into mass production, the United States, even in the depths of economic doldrums, has a level of wealth that translates to fewer people willing to do dreary, assembly-line work at extremely low wages. More significant, we're entering an era of hyperspecialization. Huge numbers of middle-class people are now able to make a living specializing in something they enjoy, including creating niche products for other middle-class people who have enough money to indulge in buying things like high-end beef jerky."

"When it comes to profit and satisfaction, craft business is showing how American manufacturing can compete in the global economy. Many of the manufacturers who are thriving in the United States (they exist, I swear!) have done so by avoiding direct competition with low-cost commodity producers in low-wage nations. Instead, they have scrutinized the market and created customized products for less price-sensitive customers. Facebook and Apple, Starbucks and the Boston Beer Company (which makes Sam Adams lager) show that people who identify and meet untapped needs can create thousands of jobs and billions in wealth. As our economy recovers, there will be nearly infinite ways to meet custom needs at premium prices."

The Innovation Kitchen model can help artisan food entrepreneurs from across the US and from around the world operate legal, safe, food enterprises in North America while supporting great jobs for people in need. Get ready to expand your existing food business. Start one of your own. Join us!

Don't Mock the Artisinal Pickle Makers. New York Times

The new artisan economy, (an earlier blog post) quoted a great study to conclude, "The next ten years will see a re-emergence of artisans as an economic force."

Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen

Graphic artist John Hendrix did the great graphic for the NYT piece shown above. John is a fabulous graphic artist with many credits and a great gallery at his site!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Congratulations Dr. Tim Lindsey and Caterpillar!

Amazing. Two friends from two completely different parts of my business life just joined forces.

In my recent business, we built oil and fluid recycling systems for industrial manufacturing plants around the globe. Among our best customers was Caterpillar. My wife's family also ran a manufacturing business that supplied Caterpillar for decades.

It's been great fun and a great learning experience to get to know my friend Dr. Tim Lindsey through our shared love of economic development via food and agriculture. Tim's recent work at the University of Illinois was done at a size and scale and quality that can transform the globe.

I believe he just got the chance. Tim has just joined Caterpillar as their Global Director of Sustainable Development.

Congratulations to all involved!

Here is a description of Tim's goals for Caterpillar from LinkedIn:

"Lead Caterpillar’s efforts to build a culture of sustainable development in all internal business units as well as with suppliers and customers. Team with Caterpillar business units and divisions to expand existing markets through strategies that improve system sustainability. Identify and create breakthrough opportunities for sustainable development that are not currently established."

I worked with Caterpillar for many years as a vendor of fluid recycling systems. Our first Caterpillar installations were at Aurora, IL, in their heat treating department. We rocked it, and the metallurgical engineers from Cat that managed our systems loved them. Caterpillar Aurora was one of the installations highlighted in our United States Small Business New Product of the Year Award from the National Society of Professional Engineers

I was on a panel with Tim at a recent conference in Chicago earlier this month.

I had the fun chance to tell the audience that the trouble with the placement of my presentation was that I was the only thing that stood between them and the amazing Dr. Tim Lindsey.

Congratulations Tim. Congratulations Caterpillar. It's a great honor to know you both. Rock it!

Caterpillar Sustainability

Dr. Tim Lindsey at LinkedIn

National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE)

Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Thank you Again! The World's 50 Most Innovative Companies.

Fast Company magazine's listing of the world's 50 most innovative companies is out in their March issue.

A few years ago, Dave and I started and grew a new business with an investment of $3,000 each. We successfully designed, patented and manufactured amazing industrial fluid recycling systems during a significant decline in American manufacturing. We had great customers on 6 continents.

We were awarded Fast Company's Fast 50 Award in 2004.

The following year, we were honored by being chosen as the United States Small Business New Product of the Year Award, by the National Society of Professional Engineers.

I believe the work of the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen is breaking new ground at this level. Annette (Food Service Director and Mistress of the Universe) and her team at the Innovation Kitchen are remarkable. This effort is creating good jobs for people with disabilities and new opportunities in the world of local foods. I could not be more inspired by the amazing new friends and co-workers I've made through the Hodan Center!

Congratulations to this year's Fast Company 'World's 50 Most Innovative Companies.' And thanks for the shout-out in 2004!

Fast Company full article

Fast Company direct to full list

Our 2004 Fast 50 Award

Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen

Hodan Center Thank you! The Hodan Center owns and operates the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Inspiration Kitchens. Dine well. Do good.

I just read an article about the Inspiration Kitchens in Chicago and I was beyond inspired.

It was my first introduction to this wonderful enterprise. Great idea. Amazing execution.

Then 'out of the blue' I made a cool new friend with strong connections to this organization.

Here is a short intro from the Inspiration Kitchens' site:

"We look forward to welcoming you to Inspiration Kitchens, the social enterprise restaurant of Inspiration Corporation! You'll enjoy contemporary American cuisine prepared and served by students and graduates of our award-winning food service training program.

Join us for memorable meals, friendly service, stylish atmosphere and the joy of giving hope and opportunity to students working to achieve self-sufficiency. Inspiration Kitchens has helped hundreds of individuals gain the skills they need to find employment and exit homelessness and poverty."

I believe there are many areas of possible collaboration between the Inspiration Kitchens and the Innovation Kitchens. The potential for building valuable, replicable, economic development outcomes for people in need through these kinds of joint efforts is significant and sustainable.

The Inspiration Kitchens idea was pioneered by Lisa Nigro. Ms. Nigro is now focusing on helping helping people with disabilities achieve personal and job goals. My kind of hero.

What wonderful stories are circulating and enriching our lives. Dine well. Do good. Thank you Inspiration Kitchens!

Inspiration Kitchens. You're going to love this.

Chicago Tribune article about this great enterprise. "On West Side, unemployed get chance to learn a recipe for success. Gourmet restaurant in struggling neighborhood offers free training."

Join this year's 20th Annual One Inspired Evening, March 2, 2012, a fundraising event for the Inspiration Corporation with honorary Chair, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. I hope to see you there!

Our Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen salutes the great work of the Inspiration Kitchens. Forward!

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Inspiring friends. Recent presentations.

I'm so very proud for the Board of Directors of the Iowa County Area Economic Development Corporation, where I'm honored to work. Our Iowa County EDC helps support the Hodan Center and their amazing Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen. My best-ever office is at the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen now. Thank you!

The work these two non-profits have accomplished together in Iowa County, WI, has been an amazing journey.

I was honored to be invited to make presentations about our work together at the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen at two important gatherings in the last few days.

The Chicago Farmers annual Farmland Investment Fair was this weekend in Joliet, IL. I'm knocked out by some new ideas that emerged from this conference. I turned in my speaker badge or that one would be in the photo too. Thanks for the invitation!

The presentations at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago on Friday were also inspiring.

This meeting was hosted by my friend Colleen Callahan, State Director of the Illinois USDA Rural Development team, and USDA's Food & Nutrition Service Midwest Region. Thank you Director Callahan!

Dr. Kathleen Merrigan, USDA Deputy Secretary was the keynote.

Lee Strom, CEO and Board Chair of the U.S. Farm Credit Administration made a great presentation.

Also got to catch up with Illinois Director of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCOE) Warren Ribley.

The Illinois teams seamed to very supportive of our efforts to grow jobs and entrepreneurship opportunities for veterans in our shared region. I look forward to working on this.

For my presentation, I was with an amazing panel of innovators moderated by my pal Karen Lehman of Fresh Taste, in Chicago.

Many congratulations to the Boards of the Iowa County EDC and the Hodan Center for this recognition!

Our work together at the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen was well received by many new and old friends at these two great conferences. Forward!

Iowa County Area Economic Development

Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen

The Hodan Center

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Learn more about Alice's Garden in Milwaukee!

Wisconsin has so many wonderful food related initiatives underway it could not be more inspiring.

We had a great meeting this morning at the Center For Resilient Cities and I had the opportunity to meet Ms. Venice Williams, the Program Manager for Alice's Garden in Milwaukee.

I learned that I want to learn more! There are many great programs arising from Alice's Garden that go way beyond food. Here is a short introduction from their site:

"This year, over 90 families of African American, Hmong, Burmese, Puerto Rican and Caucasian origins and a dozen community organizations cultivated organic produce at Alice’s Garden. Resting on a two- acre site within Milwaukee’s central city, Alice’s Garden is an example of a robust urban resilience program that continues to create opportunity, build social networks, and promote healthy lifestyles within the context of urban gardening."

From the History of Alice's Garden:

"Alice’s Garden, an urban agricultural project located in Johnsons Park, is a two-acre community garden located on a parcel of land that was once part of abolitionist Samuel Brown’s farm, the first farmer to provide safe passage to Caroline Quarlls, an escaped slave from St. Louis. The events at Brown’s farm led historically to the birth of the Underground Railroad in Wisconsin, establishing Johnsons Park an area of great significance in Milwaukee."

Thanks to the Center for Resilient Cities, and to Ms. Venice Williams for all your hard work on behalf of Alice's Garden in Milwaukee! And thanks to the many supporters of this great program. Forward!

Learn more about Alice's Garden in Milwaukee

Center For Resilient Cities