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Tag Archives: innovation
On May 14, 2013, Congressman Sean P. Duffy of Wisconsin delivered a short talk before the U.S. House of Representatives to recognize alum Robert Cervenka (BSME ’58). Cervenka co-founded Phillips Plastics in 1964 and was its chairman and CEO until he and his wife, Debbie (the company executive vice president and a member of the board of directors), sold it in 2010.
Bob Cervenka recently earned a lifetime achievement award from the Price County (Wisconsin) Economic Development Association.
Following is a transcript of Duffy’s U.S. House speech:
“Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the business accomplishments of Robert F. Cervenka of Phillips, Wisconsin, who has been presented the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Price County Economic Development Association.
Bob Cervenka was born and raised in the small town of Phillips, Wisconsin. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After his graduation in 1958, Bob returned to the community that he loved to pursue his new business venture–the Phillips Plastics Corporation.
Phillips Plastics began operations on October 20, 1964, occupying an old creamery building in Phillips. In 1967, the company broke ground on a new 12,000 square foot custom plastic facility where they employed 30 skilled workers dedicated to crafting innovative control knobs for automobiles, dishwashers, fans, dehumidifiers, and dryers. In 1973, Phillips Plastics opened Precision Decorating in Medford, Wisconsin.
Shortly thereafter, the facility became known as Phillips Automotive, a full service design, manufacture, decoration, and assembly plant for high volume injection molded components. As industries from the Midwest moved to the south and offshore, Bob recognized that Wisconsin’s rural, small community workforce offered a unique competitive advantage. He developed additional plants in Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire, Menomonie, New Richmond, Hudson, and Prescott among others.
Capitalizing on the company’s success, Mr. Cervenka and co-founder Louie Vokurka established the independent philanthropic Ann Marie Foundation in 1974. Named after their mothers, the foundation worked to improve the quality of life within local communities that are home to Phillips Plastics facilities. Since its inception, the foundation has given over $8 million to schools and non-profit organizations.
Thanks to the business contributions of outstanding citizens like Robert F. Cervenka, Wisconsin’s economic future looks bright. I ask that my colleagues join me today to express our appreciation for Bob’s entrepreneurial spirit and our congratulations to him on receiving this well-deserved award.”
Fred Kiekhaefer describes the demands that racing places on marine drives, engines and systems this way: “It’s like motocrossing a fully loaded semi over the Continental Divide, only the mountains are moving.”
Kiekhaefer is president of Mercury Racing and a 1972 UW-Madison graduate with a master’s degree focused on engine design and noise control. He is the son of legendary entrepreneur, engineer and Kiekhaefer Corporation (later renamed Mercury Marine) founder Carl Kiekhaefer, but his path to the top of marine racing and manufacturing was anything but certain.
He started his education as a physics major at Ripon College, but finished his degree at UW-Madison after plans to attend MIT hit a snag.
“There was a brochure at Ripon that said I could spend three years at Ripon and two years at MIT and graduate with a degree from MIT,” he says. “After a couple of years, I went to ask about the transition and the staff looked at me like they’d never heard of it.” (more…)
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recently reported on the success of Virent Energy Systems of Madison in creating biogasoline from a combination of corn stalks and leaves left on farms after the corn harvest, as well as pine tree branches, needles and stumps left on the forest floor after logging. Former Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering Researcher Randy Cortright (PhD, 1994) and Steenbock Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering James Dumesic formed Virent in 2002 to commercialize a single-step, low-temperature, catalytic reforming process that can generate hydrogen and a wide range of fuels from sugars, ethylene glycol and methane. Read the article at http://www.jsonline.com/business/123068063.html
Dan Reich is an electrical and computer engineer who builds businesses and pushes innovation. “I’m all about technology, business, culture, and entrepreneurship,” he says. In January 2011 Reich co-founded a social commerce company called Spinback. Four month later, Spinback was acquired by a company called Buddy Media, the Facebook management system of choice for eight out of the ten top global advertisers. Before Spinback, Reich was an early employee at Lotame, a business he helped grow from a small office with a handful of people, to one with several offices around the world. He has helped create new products and strategies, and secured business partnerships with companies like Google, Conde Nast and other media companies and startups.
From more effective life-saving stents to more efficient controls for small aircraft, UW-Madison engineering students put their ingenuity on display at the 2011 Innovation Days, which just concluded with the announcement of winners of more than $27,000 in prizes. An idea for an electronically controlled arterial stent that can be deployed more precisely by surgeons won the $10,000 Schoofs Prize for Creativity. An idea for a flight training instrument that better simulates airplane balance and control for pilots won the $2,500 Tong Prototype Prize. Read more about all of today’s winners.