Helping Create State’s First Manufacturing Mall

| By: Britten, Casey

Fifteen years after the Fox Valley Technical College Venture Center offered its first E-Seed™ entrepreneur training session to aspiring small business owners, little did its director, Amy Pietsch, realize that some of those entrepreneurs would end up together under one roof.

The Venture Center’s national, train-the-trainer E-Seed offering was highlighted during Global Entrepreneur Week in November inside the state’s first-ever Manufacturing Mall. The facility is comprised of four businesses owned by three gentlemen with ties to FVTC. “I’ve seen two of these gentlemen start with welding and machine shops out of their garages through E-Seed, and now they’re part of a continuum of customized services in a 12,00 square-foot building in Neenah,” says Pietsch. “What a success story, and more significantly, what a great way to serve as a one-stop shop for area manufacturers.”

The "mall" of services includes Grassroots Machining, Industrial Machine Services, J.W. Welding, and Northern Compressor. Grassroots owner Chuck Duginski, an E-Seed completer along with J. W. owner Jason Harold, has seen his workforce quadruple in five years and his clients are international, including one with ties to products that improve our national defense. “We share resources and many of the same customers to best serve the needs of today’s advanced manufacturing sector,” notes Duginski.

Nick Vander Heyden of Northern Compressor and Industrial Machine completed a few different apprenticeship training programs through FVTC over the years, reaffirming the college’s role in the success of the Manufacturing Mall beyond business start-up. All parties involved with the dedication used the opportunity to raise awareness about its model so other related businesses could benchmark their successes through this level of collaboration.

BELOW: Chuck Duginski, owner of Grassroots Machining in Neenah, cuts the ribbon to dedicate Wisconsin’s first Manufacturing Mall.