KABA and KACC announce local business award winners

A pair of Kenosha County business organizations will recognize seven local companies and one individual for their success on Thursday, Nov. 3.

The 2011 Kenosha County Business Excellence Awards, presented by the Kenosha Area Business Alliance and the Kenosha Area Chamber of Commerce, will be held at the Student Center University Ballroom at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. The revised format for this year’s awards includes a distinction between smaller and larger businesses, as well as recognition of emerging companies known as the “Fast Five.”

Xten Industries, Inc. was selected as the 2011 Business of the Year. The award honors a firm that has been in business for at least five years and has more than 30 employees. Xten’s recognition as Business of the Year is only the latest in a series of awards, including being named three times to the Future 50 list of fastest-growing companies, awarded by the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) and the Council of Small Business Executives (COSBE). Earlier this year, Xten was one of four KABA members to selected as a Wisconsin Company to Watch, by the Wisconsin Entrepreneur Network and the Wisconsin Department of Commerce. From 2009 to 2011, Xten added 30 employees at its 78,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Kenosha. In that same span, the company’s revenue has climbed by $4.5 million, partly stemming from the development of new products for use in medical waste disposal and appliances. Xten produces plastic parts, assembled components and sub-assemblies and either integrates them into customer products or drop-ships finished products to end-user locations. Currently the company is producing products ranging from 30-gallon medical waste containers to tiny gears and optical lenses small enough to fit on a fingernail. The selection of Xten was based on factors that included history of growth (sales and employment), innovation (introduction of new products and services), community engagement and overall economic impact on the community.

GEM Manufacturing, Inc. is the 2011 Small Business of the Year, receiving the honor from nominees that have fewer than 30 employees and have been in business for more than three years. The Bristol-based company produces over 2,000 different parts annually for the agriculture, fluid handling, energy, material handling and food processing industries as well as many others, including the military. GEM operates two, 10-hour shifts per day, four days per week and recently eclipsed the 30-employee mark, growing from 18 in 2009 to 34 currently. Founded in 1974 as Specialty Machining by Mario and Lynne Morrone, brothers Kevin and Rob Gottschalk acquired the company in 2006 and renamed it GEM Manufacturing. Last year, the company’s revenue grew by $1.4 million and is projected to grow by another $2.2 million in 2011. In the beginning of 2011, GEM added a second location, a 10,000-square-foot building in the Business Park of Kenosha, to house its milling operations. The acquisition clears the way for GEM to purchase new equipment and improve operational efficiency.

Craig Deaton, founder and president of Gateway Mortgage Corporation, was tapped as Entrepreneur of the Year, whose criteria for eligibility include having an ownership stake in the business and having been integrally involved in the company’s founding. Deaton founded Gateway Mortgage in 1983 as a mortgage broker. He has developed the company into a full service mortgage banker with a full-time staff of 23, currently servicing about $335 million in residential first mortgages. With an emphasis on quality underwriting, Gateway steered clear of subprime mortgages completely and does not originate second liens (HELOCS/second mortgages). While the company lost substantial market share to other lenders during the housing boom of the early 2000s, today Gateway’s loan portfolio has a less than 1% delinquency ratio. In addition, this April the company became a Ginnie Mae-approved servicer and issuer, enabling them to service government-guaranteed FHA and VA loans.

And new this year, the Fast Five, which puts a spotlight on companies that have made a significant economic impact in Kenosha County over the past year. That impact is defined as meeting at least two of the following criteria: significant revenue or employment growth; introduction of a new product, service or innovation; and growth in regional, national or international exports. Recipients of the Fast Five recognition in 2011 are Allied Plastics, Inc. of Twin Lakes; Five Star Coatings Group of Twin Lakes; and Kenosha-based Equity Creative, Offsite, LLC, and RJ Underground, Inc.

The Kenosha County Business Excellence awards program began in 2005 when KABA and the Kenosha Chamber joined together to present one collaborative program celebrating successful companies. Past recipients of the Business of the Year award, dating back to its 2005 inception, are Snap-on Incorporated, LMI Packaging Solutions, Inc., Kenosha Animal Hospital, Five Star Fabricating, Rode’s Camera & Photo Supplies and Riley Construction Company. The panel of judges who select award recipients include winners from past years, a representative from BizTimes Milwaukee, as well as representatives from the business school programs at UW-Parkside, Carthage College, and Gateway Technical College.

For more information about the 2011 Kenosha County Business Excellence Awards, visit http://www.kaba.org/email-blasts/eblasts/BEA_winner_archives.htm.

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