Diversified Seed Producers takes home Family Business of the Year honor
The event, held at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center in Madison, recognized companies from all corners of the state.
Three grand awards were presented along with four special awards. Among those earning special honors was Diversified Seed Producers, which took home the “Growing Strong” award. The business was established in 2007 after the original family seed corn business, Kaltenberg Seed, liquidated after 100 years of operation due to the economics of industry consolidation and genetically altered seeds.
Company President Fred Kaltenberg, whose grandfather Anton Kaltenberg established the original business, wanted to stay in the seed business on the production side and established Diversified Seed Producers. The business, which produces a variety of agricultural seed, including organic varieties, has been built to the point where it has a loyal customer base from the Dakotas to New York State and throughout Canada. A succession plan is in place where sons Michael and Matthew will take over the business at some point.
For Fred Kaltenberg, it was not easy finding the words to acknowledge this recognition. “It’s just a tremendous thing to see the family businesses and our own immediate family coming together and taking our business forward into the future and being able to pass it on and having children who want to do that and take it forward,” Kaltenberg says. “I’m third generation. My sons are fourth generation. My grandfather started the business in 1906. That puts us at 112 years [of family business]. It just means everything.
“The great team of employees and managers we have — it’s all just one big family.”
Meanwhile, Chapter 2 Inc., a contract manufacturer based in Lake Mills, received a Grand Award in the Medium Company category (for businesses with 25 to 99 employees).
In all, 23 companies, including four women-owned businesses, were nominated for the 2018 awards program.
Special awards were given companies excelling in a particular area. In addition to Diversified Seed Producers, also winning special awards were: Baker's Quality Pizza Crusts Inc. of Waukesha, which won the “Rising to the Top” award; Empire Screen Printing Inc. of Onalaska, the “I Am Not Afraid” award; and Heck Capital Advisors LLC of Rhinelander, the “Building a Lasting Legacy” award.
Winners not only come from every part of the state, they also include second through fifth generation businesses in agriculture, retail, financial services, metal fabrication, food processing, and printing. Program organizers, taking issue with perceptions that the Family Business Awards are a Madison-centric event, noted that two award winners — Don Johnson Auto Group and Heck Capital Advisors — are located north of Hwy. 8.
During the program, Neil Fauerbach, partner and director of business development and marketing for program co-sponsor Smith & Gesteland LLP, a Madison-based CPA and business consulting firm, summed up how judges and organizers feel about family businesses. “We love the way you operate, the way you make decisions, and the way you treat the people around you.”
Julie Bogle, a partner with Smith & Gesteland, notes that much of the media focus is on corporate giants such a Amazon and Google, but family businesses remain the backbone of the American economy, especially given the way they constantly innovate and change with the market. Bogle sees a unifying thread in the way family businesses serve their communities and customers. “I hope the whole country sees family businesses as a way the country can come together,” she states.
An independent panel of judges, included several past winners, selected the 2018 award winners.