Made in Dane: 15 intriguing products produced in our backyard

When we launched our annual Made in Dane feature, we had Dane County manufacturers in mind. Our rectangular patch of real estate might not be as active in the manufacturing sector as suburban Milwaukee or the Fox Valley, but we wanted to recognize local employers that can do metal and plastics fabrication — two local strengths — with the best of them.

While it’s still our pleasure to honor Dane County manufacturing, we’ve since learned that unique products come from virtually every local industry. From pillows to pottery, the products we’ve profiled in the first three years of our Made in Dane presentation have revealed a diverse inventive streak.

Several of this year’s products are better known than others. Several are on the cutting edge or even bleeding edge of their respective lines of business, while others are unique for other reasons. So here are 15 more products made in Dane County or by companies headquartered here.

Craft brewing coup

For craft beer lovers seeking asylum, High Coup is a high-caliber India pale ale brewed and bottled by Ale Asylum on Madison’s north side. This seasonal beer has not been distributed until now and uses hops the brewery hasn’t used in previous brands. Consumers will be able to judge High Coup for themselves because it will be on tap and on the shelves of Wisconsin and Illinois craft beer establishments and retail outlets through June.

Slightly off kilter

Regina Davan, owner and founder of Alt.Kilt, refers to her kilts as “custom urbanwear,” but you should think twice before calling her male clients something less than manly. That’s because real guys take kilt-y pleasure in donning Alt.Kilt’s finest fashions. As a result, a venture that started as a lark has allowed Davan to make a real killing — or shall we say kilting? — as she pursues her passion as both creator and seamstress.

Making Bucky more plucky

Does the University of Wisconsin Athletic Department have a secret weapon when it comes to promoting peak performance for its student athletes? Perhaps it does, in the form of flavorful BadgerMax isotonic sports drinks, which UW athletes use to hydrate and reenergize, and BadgerMax protein boost, an isotonic protein drink that delivers 12 grams of pure whey protein isolate, all of which is produced in Wisconsin. The drinks fuel both the Badgers and weekend athletes throughout the Badger state.



Marking territory

Adding functionality to existing product lines, Berntsen International is now “smart marking” a wide range of its marking products by putting radio-frequency identification tags in its physical markers. This enables them to be read and managed with the company’s InfraMarker app and Web service. The app completes an integrated system that ties RFID-enabled physical markers in the field with a smartphone and a customer’s geographic information system.

In your facial

“Good for your skin and good for you” is how Madison’s Brightside Skincare describes its facial serum, a product that uses the antioxidant power of rooibos tea to fight premature aging and acne. To promote soft skin and reduce scarring, the serum is formulated with a carcinogen-free blend of aloe vera and vitamin E. It also contains willow bark to prevent inflammation, rosemary to counteract age-related sun damage, and DMAE from salmon (plus organic ocean sulfur) to firm and tone skin.

ETC consoles theater operators

Electronic Theatre Controls’ Ion, a powerful, compact lighting-control console, allows the show to go on. Whether it’s going on the road or used in the cramped back row of a small theater, it performs everything from daily functions to a composition of complex designs. Even with a small, 19-inch format, Ion provides fully integrated control of media servers and conventional, LED, and moving lights, and its control surface is adaptable enough to be extended by adding up to six Universal Fader Wings (for playbacks) that attach via USB.



En garde against cancer

Cologuard, Exact Sciences’ colorectal cancer screening technology, is the latest advance in the fight against a leading cause of death. The test is so noninvasive that kits are shipped directly to the patient’s home and samples are sent to Exact Sciences labs in a prepaid, preaddressed package via UPS. Best of all, it delivers accurate results in detecting colon cancer and precancerous polyps, and it finds both cancer and pre-cancer, increasing the chances for life-saving early detection.

Entertainment industry

If you were playing Trivial Pursuit and were asked to name a Dane County company that’s had its products used on TV shows and in movies like Orange County Choppers, Home Alone, and Backdraft, perhaps the last company that would come to mind is Ellis Manufacturing in Verona. Yet its semi-industrial products, such as belt grinders, band saws, and drill presses, are procured not only by Hollywood special effects departments but also by customers in all 50 states, Canada, Europe, and Asia.

The royal whiskey

Have you heard of the King of Beers? Well, Madison is home to the “Queen of Whiskey.” Queen Jennie Whiskey, produced by Madison’s Old Sugar Distillery, is named for the legendary Jennie Justo, who attacked Prohibition with gusto. Back in the day, she became known as the “Queen of Bootleggers,” and the distillery has paid homage to her with a sorghum whiskey that’s less sour than bourbon and less harsh than rye. Something tells us that Her Majesty would drink to that.



Freedom games

If you’re game for mobile gaming, Madison’s PerBlue offers the freedom to play — a lot of freedom to play, thanks to the computing expertise of its founding team. Applying their education in computer science and engineering at UW-Madison, combined with their time at tech giants like Google, Microsoft, and Cisco, CEO Justin Beck and company have built a young but experienced team of software developers, game designers, and creative talent. They have developed entertaining games played by more than 10 million people, including Titan Empires, Greed for Glory, and Parallel Kingdom.

Closing the loop

Purple Cow Organics may be in the “make your soil better” business, but with its Closed Loop program, it’s also in the “make our environment better” business. The Middleton-based company has teamed up with Willy Street Co-op and Metcalfe’s in a zero-waste initiative, where expiring food products are used to create premium organic compost for hardworking farmers and weekend gardeners alike. Fruits, vegetables, grains, coffee grounds, and more — which would otherwise end up in Madison’s landfill — become building blocks in Purple Cow Organics’ popular retail products, such as Tomato Gro, Compost Tea, and Activated Compost.

New way to roll

Fully assembled in Fitchburg, the stylish Rowheels REV1s are the manual wheelchair wheels that wheelchair users “pull” to propel forward. This patented breakthrough allows users to actively engage eight of their nine upper-body muscles in daily propulsion and exercise, as compared to only two of nine with push-based wheeling. Among its benefits are improved posture and a reduced risk of repetitive-stress shoulder and wrist injuries.



Cover your eyes

Eye relief is the promise of the Ocular Siesta Eye Pillow, the main product of Spoil Yourself (est. 1994) and the inspiration of owner Susanne Galler. It’s a flaxseed-filled pillow that you can place over your eyes to help you relax; customers have used it during massages and yoga, while meditating, or simply to fall asleep. Many customers also believe the pillow provides relief with headaches, but Galler increasingly hears about it being used as a “fidget toy” by people of all ages.

Cycling power

PowerTap, known for cycling-power-measuring technology, is one of four brands in a Saris Cycling Group stable that also includes Saris bicycles, Saris Parking (racks), and CycleOps (virtual training). The PowerTap brand recently announced two new “power meter” portfolio additions for the cycling world — the P1 pedal and C1 chain ring — to accompany the industry-benchmarked PowerTap hub. Now cyclists have the option of a crank-based power meter or a pedal that provides independent measurements and detailed metrics.

Skin deep

The lives of burn victims and people with diabetes stand to improve dramatically thanks to StrataGraft, the lead skin substitute product of Stratatech Corp. StrataGraft, a full-thickness skin substitute, was developed to address an unmet need. The current method of treating such patients is an autograft, a skin transplant from a healthy part of one’s body to the burn site. StrataGraft is applied to a trauma site, progressing the treated site to complete wound closure.

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