Midwest Partnership holds annual meeting, presents awards

~courtesy of The Scranton Journal

The spotlight was on Audubon County Thursday night, Jan. 26, as more than 75 business representatives and local governmental officials gathered at the Lake Panorama Conference Center to review the past year of Midwest Partnership Economic Development. Both awards went to Audubon County businesses and the guest speaker was Dr Daryl Olsen, one of the founders of AMVC.

MWP executive director Sarah Gomez reviewed the past year. The organization provided assistance to 24 existing businesses on issues related to product development, business planning, expansion, workforce, technology, legislation, and human resources.

Thirty small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs were helped, ranging from finding a building, site or store front, to writing a business plan; providing information on financing options, and even business succession options.

MWP helps its 27 communities with community development through collaboration and partnership by assisting with projects such as child care study, housing and tourism, as well as represent the region at meetings, conferences and trade shows.

Numerous business leads were addressed. MWP, through Western Iowa Advantage, commissioned Iowa Workforce Development to conduct a laborshed study for each of MWP’s four counties and the region as a whole.

The EntreBASH was a success with plans underway for a similar event this year. The Employer Educator Summit was held at Wild Rose Casino with 225 people in attendance.

Gomez noted that workforce issues and the lack of skilled workers continues to be the biggest challenge in the four-county area: Guthrie, Greene, Audubon and Adair counties.

Brett Irlmeier conducted the meeting, concluding his year as president. Incoming president John Rutledge presented Irlmeier with a commemorative plaque.

The Guy Powell award was presented to Ben and Kathy Puck of Puck Enterprises. Meg and Chad Gleason of Moglea received the Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

Additional members of the board of directors are Norm Fandel, treasurer; Cheryl Marks, secretary; Warren Varley, Matt Wedemeyer, Troy Wessel, Rick Morain, Doug Burns, Scott Tonderum, Stacie Hull, Jason Hocker, Lyle Hansen Jr, Peggy Toft, Todd Nelsen, Kyle Orris, Sid Jones, Travis Warnke, Everett Grasty, Gary Haverman, Jerry Sullivan, Marty Doud and Mike Underwood.

Chad and Meg Gleason of Audubon were selected to receive the Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Brett Irlmeier (right) made the presentation. Scranton Journal photo

The Entrepreneur of the Year Award recognizes entrepreneurial spirit and the substantial growth of a small business venture in our region. This year’s award was presented to Meg and Chad Gleason, owners of Moglea in Audubon.

Launched in 2012, Moglea is an artful stationary brand that has grown into an internationally known product line consisting of greeting cards, home and party décor, holiday ornaments, art canvases, phone cases, wrapping paper, and much more. They utilize hand applied processes to make one-of-a-kind products and the production team applies layers of paint to large sheets of paper before cutting them down to smaller sizes. Some products are even dipped in pigment or homemade organic dyes made from beets, blueberries, or spinach. Most pieces get printed or foil-stamped on one of their four antique printing presses.

Meg started her business in the basement of their old farmhouse in rural Audubon. As new products were developed and sales grew, additional staff was hired and the business eventually outgrew Meg’s basement, garage, and the rest of her house. They currently have eight fulltime and eight part-time employees and operate out of a unique studio, which Chad built. Recently, Moglea surpassed $500,000 in revenue, with retail sales on their own website accounting for five percent of that.

They sell and ship products to more than 700 brick and mortar, boutique paper and home goods shops around the world, including Anthropologie, Paper Source, The Container Store, and Nordstrom. Their products can also be found in the UK, Canada, France, Sweden, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Japan.

Meg has worked with several fashion lines to develop exclusive stationary products and other custom art. Moglea’s work has been featured in many forms of press, including Martha Stewart Living, Better Homes & Gardens, and the HGTV Magazine. Meg’s art prints have also been sold at West Elm, a store under the Pottery Barn umbrella.

Meg and Chad are excited about the future of Moglea and will be showcasing their products at tradeshows in Atlanta, Dallas, and New York City in 2017. They also plan to develop more home-goods items like woven cotton blankets, candles, and a modern furniture line later this year.

Kathy and Ben Puck of Puck Enterprises in Audubon County were the recipients of the Guy Powell Award. Brett Irlmeier (right) made the presentation. Scranton Journal photo

The Guy Powell Award recognizes excellence in leadership and passion for economic development in the Midwest Partnership Development Corporation region. It is awarded to superior leaders that strive to make our region a more economically vital place to live, work, and play. This year’s recipients of the Guy Powell Award are Ben and Kathy Puck of Puck Custom Enterprises, Inc, located in Manning in Audubon County.

Ben and Kathy’s business venture began in 1979 with the purchase of one vacuum truck to be used for manure application. That soon grew to six vacuum trucks, which were eventually replaced with larger tractors and honey wagons, and then a TerraGator. In 1998, PCE, Inc. was created as a formal entity and in 2004, Puck’s moved from tank based applicators to a drag hose system. Always looking for ways to improve the process, they realized they could design a more efficient product for the marketplace and in 2005 they manufactured and sold the PCE Hose Cart, which was later patented.

In 2010, they opened the doors on a new 15,000 square foot manufacturing facility and began producing a handful of unique products for dragline systems. There have been additional facility expansion projects since then, and plans are in the works for continued improvements. In the past six years, they’ve added 116,000 square feet to their manufacturing and warehouse space.

Today, PCE, Inc operations include 24 unique products being sold throughout North America. It also has established projects in the UK, Russia, and Croatia and employs more than 60 people, yet it remains a family owned and managed company. Ben and Kathy are still hands-on owners and operators, and their four children are all involved in the business: Jeremy is the head of sales and inventory operations, Nancy leads the marketing efforts with Mary’s help, and Danny works in product development.

PCE has been a strong supporter of Audubon County Economic Development and continues to attract a great deal of business suppliers and customers to the area. It is a development minded business and encourage local growth. Puck Custom Enterprises exemplifies the true definition of the Guy Powell Award with their vision, leadership, courage, and impact, especially in northern Audubon County.

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