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This post was written by “Team Colors United,” made up of LDA 2018-19 participants: Teresa Riesterer, Blackhawk Community Credit Union; Beth Peters, ANGI Energy; Ethan Lee, City of Janesville; Michael Davis, Nowlan & Mouat; Amy Kenyon, Milton School District; and Jessica Dobratz, Express Employment Professionals.

A welcome from the Blain’s CEO

CEO Jane Blain Gilbertson tells the story of Farm-n-Fleet.

CEO Jane Blain Gilbertson tells the story of Farm & Fleet.

The December Leadership Development Academy meeting took place on Friday, Dec. 14, 2018 at Blain’s Supply Distribution Center in Janesville.

The morning started off with a welcome from Jane Blain Gilbertson, CEO of Blain’s Farm & Fleet. Ms. Gilbertson shared the history of the company that dates all the way back to the recession era. Originally, Farm & Fleet was an automobile dealership in Ladysmith, Wisconsin and business boomed after World War II. In the early 1960’s Farm & Fleet decided to sell their dealerships and began their first farm store in Janesville, Wisconsin.

Due to state laws, fleet vehicles were given a discount on farm merchandise, so Farm & Fleet would have two numbers on the price tag. One number would be for customers with a fleet card (discount) and the other number would be for non-fleet customers. Over time, the store added auto parts/supplies and continued to add new merchandise divisions. Today, Blain’s Farm & Fleet has 40 stores throughout Illinois, Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin.

After graduating from college, Ms. Gilbertson worked in the corporate world in large cities. The values that she learned from the family business did not always match up to those of her job in the corporate world. Because of this, she decided to come back home to Janesville and work in the family business.

One value that Blain’s Farm and Fleet believes in is the importance of the company giving back to the community. She discussed many projects and charities the company gets involved with and emphasized the importance of each store’s ability to work with and for the community they live in.

Al Hulick, James Otterstein, Gale Price

Janesville Economic Development Tour

The Janesville area economic development tour was hosted by Gale Price and James Otterstein. The tour started with Gale highlighting some of the new additions to downtown Janesville as well as some of the new business activity in Janesville: Block 42 restaurants, ARISE now, Demolition of the former GM plant, Beloit Avenue Industrial area, Dollar General Distribution, and SHINE Medical Technologies.

Touring Miniature Precision Components in Janesville

Touring Miniature Precision Components in Janesville

The bus tour took a short stop to tour Miniature Precision Components (MPC). MPC is a thermoplastic business that specializes in automotive components and parts founded in 1972 by the Brost family. The company started in Jay Brost’s garage and grew quickly after developing an automotive check valve for the Ford Motor Company. The tour was led by MPC staff in which they highlighted their robotics and the diversity of the products they produce.

Milton Tour

The Milton portion of our tour was hosted by Al, Hulick, City Administrator of Milton. Al provided LDA participants with a brief history of the city and explained how two communities, Milton and Milton Junction merged in 1967 to form one city.

He took us past the Milton House which is a National Historic Landmark and recognized for the Underground Railroad. Milton College was also very important to the community until it closed in 1982. Today, several of the buildings are occupied by antique shops, offices, apartments and the city library. For those who would like to visit Milton, it is home to the 2018 Library of the Year!

Al highlighted Crossroads Business Park and mentioned the businesses that currently occupy space in Milton as well as why it would be a good place for others to locate there. The city is busy welcoming new families as a new residential development called Redhawk Farms is in full swing.

Mural inside Blain Supply

Mural inside Blain Supply

Blain Supply Tour

A tour of Blain Supply was led by employees of Blain Supply. The facility tour consisted of seeing some of the inner workings of Blain Supply: call center, mock store setup, vendor meeting rooms, and the distribution/loading area.

James Otterstein speaks to the group

James Otterstein speaks to the group

Economic Development Presentation & Group Exercise

The final portion of the December LDA meeting included a presentation by Mr. James Otterstein, the Rock County Economic Development Manager, entitled Economic Development 101.

Mr. Otterstein began by defining Economic Development as “the process of creating and/or stimulating wealth through the mobilization of human, financial, physical and natural resources related capital to generate marketable goods and services,” and the importance of strong economic development to all members of the community; as they say, a rising tide lifts all ships.

He then reviewed some of the tools used for this end, including Tax Increment Financing, leveraging real estate, and Janesville’s ARISE NOW plan, as well as instances where these tools were used to drive economic development. Finally, we were presented with key economic indicators, and how they have improved since the recession due to intelligent planning of economic development.

Following Mr. Otterstein’s presentation, we were presented with a group exercise whereby each group was tasked with creating a pitch based on a Request For Proposal for an imaginary corporation looking to open a manufacturing facility.

It was up to each group to determine how best to sell the corporation on Rock County, which data to present, and how, as we were given 5 to 8 minutes to present information we had been given over the course of multiple eight-hour days. In the end, Group 5 knocked their pitch out of the park, and won the simulation.

This post was written by “Team Change Makers,” (pictured above) made up of LDA 2018-19 participants: Katie Lange, Blackhawk Technical College; Jacob Carter, ANGI Energy Systems; Erin Goepfert, Blackhawk Community Credit Union; Rebecca Veium, Community Action; Daniel Jackson, School District of Janesville; and Joann Nupnau, Advia Credit Union.

Lessons about homelessness

True to form, our November LDA session was packed with wonderful learning opportunities for participants.

The morning kicked off with a homeless panel sharing their insights about the homeless reality in Rock County. Homelessness is a multifaceted issue with many layers to address. The panel identified a lack of affordable housing as a primary contributing factor in addition to poverty, mental health, and substance use disorders.

Local school districts identify hundreds of homeless youth and unaccompanied youth every year. Within the Janesville School District, roughly 50% of the students qualify for the Free and Reduced Lunch program and roughly 79% of students in the Beloit School District qualify. Living in poverty affects the physical and mental health of the individual along with the educational outcomes of the children.

How can you help? Contact your local homeless providers or school district to see how you can help those they serve.

Hunger simulation exercise

Following the homeless panel discussions, participants had the hands-on opportunity to experience challenges low-income people face day to day when trying to feed themselves and their families.

The Hunger Task Force lead participants through a hunger simulation where LDA members took on a persona and lived in the shoes of someone with limited resources trying to secure food for 3 days. While there were some laughs along the way from the “Grocery Store” owner making unreasonable demands and denials to customers, members came to realize the barriers faced in trying to access resources for food.


The morning ended with guest speakers from GIFTS Men’s Shelter in Janesville. GIFTS has an impressive volunteer base that makes it possible for them to serve homeless men in recovery. Members heard first-hand from one of their participants how GIFTS is giving him the opportunity to turn his life around and how grateful he is of their help.

Our afternoon started with lunch sponsored by Visit Beloit and time to chat with our project groups. The room was filled with laughter and brainstorming energy while groups took advantage of their time to plan. We were all so focused that we got ourselves a bit behind schedule for our afternoon agenda.


Communication & courageous conversations

Linda took charge of the group and broke us up for a REAL Colors activity; continuing to reinforce how to communicate best with all colors. Note: those were some pretty impressive interpretations of a sailboat!


The session ended with Courageous Conversations about diversity and inclusion. Astounding statistics were shared with the room regarding racial inequities in the State of Wisconsin. Wisconsin is one of the worst states rated in a number of measures reported in 2010 and appears that more recent numbers will be about the same. Presenters lead activities to defy stereotypes and to challenge the group to become more inquisitive about those around us.

Our takeaways

At the end of the day, be kind to each other as you never know what they are going through. Homelessness doesn’t discriminate and compassion is the medicine that everyone can prescribe.

LDA kicks off each year on a ‘high’ note

Joe Jimenez

Joe Jimenez (photo from his 2012 LDA graduation)

Leadership Development Academy of Rock County participants experience low and high ropes course activities very early in the program. The daylong session challenges them in various ways, introduces them to the program’s goals, and helps them get to know one another in a team-building environment.

Below, Joe Jimenez, LDA Class of 2012 graduate and current Leadership Development Academy Board Member (who also shot and edited this video), shares his ropes course memories and finds parallels in what he witnessed this year:

“Looking back on my LDA year, one memory that stands out most to me is the high ropes course that kicked off our LDA experience. In 2011 this was a two-day, overnight experience and the first time I got to see my fellow LDA participants.

“Our first day was spent learning where we stood on the Myers Briggs test and how to best deal with those who scored differently. This test has been replaced with Real Colors, but serves the same purpose, which is to create a diverse team moving forward for the year.

“We spent our second day in the woods working on team-building exercises and ending with a trip through the high ropes. I still remember the real fear some of my fellow participants had and the support they received from everyone in the group.

“This year as I sat behind my camera and watched this new group of LDA participants heading up the high ropes course, I couldn’t help but notice that there is something about this challenge that continues to bring out the best in people.”

View the LDA Ropes Course Experience video

This post was written by Renee Engen of First Lutheran Church and a member of “Team 12 Hands,” made up of LDA 2017-18 participants. The other team members are Nancy Mandell, Blackhawk Community Credit Union; Jon Tysse, Blackhawk Technical College; Patty Hernandez, School District of Janesville; Sherman Dyer, ANGI Energy Systems; and Melissa McMillan, Prent.

The Venue & Johnson Bank


The last LDA meeting prior to graduation began with a trip to the Venue for pictures and a tour of where graduation would be held. After the quick pictures and tour we headed over to Johnson Bank in Janesville to have a discussion on civic opportunities and how to get involved.

Members of the community meet with the LDA class presenting a panel discussion of civic opportunities encouraging participation. Speakers included Janesville City Manager Mark Freitag, Beloit City Council President Kevin Leavy, YWCA Board member Gerri Downing, United Way Board member Mike O’Brien, Rock County Board member Stephanie Aegerter, and Beloit City Clerk Lori Stottler, who served as moderator.

Thank you to all those who participated for your time and words of encouragement!

Renee’s Take on Robert’s Rules of Order: Linear thinking for the organizationally challenged

Our session about Robert’s Rules of Order couldn’t have come at a better time. Last month my employer suggested I learn about Robert’s to make better use of time on a board for which I am staff liaison. I wanted to table the matter but my boss wasn’t having that. However, I was allowed to postpone the matter until our LDA session.

I’d like to think that I have a creative mind but it’s possible that I’m just lazy in my attempts to organize. Here’s a picture of my decision making strategy:

April 2018 Session Recap (5)

And a basic infographic of Robert’s Rules:

April 2018 Session Recap (14)

Honestly, it’s unmerciful to drag an entire committee through my decision making process so I was grateful to be introduced to a far less chaotic and reasonable structure. My board thanks you Sue Connelly. I move to adjourn. Do I hear a second? – renee

Work Day Projects

HealthNet “File Moving”

April 2018 Session Recap (8)

HealthNet is an amazing treasure for Rock County Wisconsin. Providing healthcare in the form of doctors’ visits, dental care, chiropractic care, prescriptions, and other offerings to people without healthcare or access to healthcare in and around Rock Co.

While showing the LDA movers their office space they informed the group they dispensed over $1.8 million in prescription medication last year. With all the wonderful work comes paperwork, lots of paperwork. HealthNet also takes other types of donations from durable medical devices to single use items. When these important items fight with stored paperwork the space must go to the items for patients.

Several members of the 2018 class of the Rock Co Leadership Development Academy were asked to help HealthNet move some files. It was great to be able to make a positive impact for HealthNet! (Wow, full file cabinets are heavy!)


Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin

April 2018 Session Recap (15)

Continuing the mini projects, several LDA members came together to help out our Humane Society. We were given an overview presentation of what the shelter does, how it continues financially, how people can help in their mission. We toured the facility, and then jumped into help the staff catch up on chores, so they could concentrate on getting some much-needed work done. We washed and dried laundry, washed food and water containers, and even the toys that the dogs and cats play with. It was an eye-opening experience, and Janesville should be very proud of not only having a Humane Society, but also the work that each of the staff and volunteers are doing.

House of Mercy

April 2018 Session Recap (12)

Six LDA members volunteered at the House of Mercy. The House of Mercy is a homeless center in Janesville that provides short-term emergency shelter to single women and families along with access to housing, job placement, and child care resources. They have 25 beds and are usually filled to capacity with a waiting list. The group helped out by washing windows in several community areas within the shelter.


Gifts Men Shelter

April 2018 Session Recap (13)

The Gifts Men Shelter is the only shelter in Rock County that provides shelter and services to homeless men. The mission of the shelter is show Christ’s love to homeless men in Rock County by advancing renewal and hope through Christian effort. They have added a layer of support in an effort to transition these men back into productive, independent lives. Several LDA members helped out with yard cleanup. They collected over 20 bags of yard waste in the rain.

Boys & Girls Club of Janesville

April 2018 Session Recap (18)

I enjoyed listening to the staff at the Boys and Girls Club interact with students as the LDA team painted. As I listened I was grateful to be there serving here. The staff does such a nice job with the littles that they serve and care for that painting would have been a misuse of their time! The team prepped and patched the front desk area and gave it a fresh coat of paint along with a few other painting projects. And we felt grateful for the good work the staff do in the community.

This post was written by the members of Team 6 Degrees, made up of six 2017-18 LDA participants. Each group members wrote a portion of this post; each author’s name and employer appears in their respective sections.

“What it Takes to Lead”

By: Dana Simmons, School District of Janesville

“A vision is like a dream – it will disappear unless we do something with it. Do something big or do something small. But stop wondering and go on an adventure.” Simon Sinek

As we embark on our journey with LDA, each session helps us reflect on what it truly means to lead. Amy Jo Verbeten lead us in a discussion on “what it takes to lead.” We started with brainstorming different characteristics, such as motivating, innovative, humble, empathetic, visionary, teacher, and engaging.

As discussion progressed, we identified the role of a leader – visionary and culture keeper. A leader also needs to own and learn from their mistakes. The discussion forced us to reflect not only on their leaders in our lives, but who we are as leaders.

Whether you are born a leader, or developed, our life experiences and relationships help mold and guide. Not only were these common themes found within our LDA group discussion, they were woven into the stories from a Leadership Panel.

Leadership Panel

Leadership Panel

Leadership Panel

By: Kelsey Rettke, Greater Beloit Chamber

Following the brainstorming session was a Leadership Styles panel moderated by AmyJo Verbeten with panelists: Larry Squire, Regional President for Johnson Bank; Sherri Stumpf, CEO of Blackhawk Community Credit Union; Pastor David Clark of Central Christian Church in Beloit; and Bekki Kennedy, Senior Leader of Marketing & Publishing at the Studer Group, as well as development overseer for the Block 42 Shops in Downtown Janesville.

Discussion and conversation ranged from an impressive mix of professional and personal anecdotes, engaging stories of failure and how to overcome, to visions for the future, the importance of having a mentor, and book recommendations for those of us just starting out on our leadership journeys.

With a background in publishing and the healthcare industry, Kennedy shared her story of managing a company and trying to lead her team during a buyout by a growth equity firm. She recalled learning the hard way how important it is to stick to core values and owning up to mistakes, especially as a leader in the workplace.

Squire recalled a time in his life when he would not have envisioned himself working for a bank. With a degree in computer science and a family legacy of strawberry farming in Wisconsin, his path to a career in banking was unexpected, to say the least. He encouraged us to remember the time it takes to develop leadership skills, and to “meet people where they’re at,” using his Dad’s commitment to giving kids summer work on their family farm as an example of taking a chance on future leaders.

Stumpf “moved south” to Wisconsin from Minneapolis with a 30-year background in Human Resources, and says her path to becoming a CEO happened “quite by accident.” She emphasized the importance of surrounding oneself with good people, and that becoming a leader is all about how you treat, interact with, and work together with a team.

Pastor Clark said he felt “humbled” sitting in a panel with so many impressive people. Indeed, his story was also impressive. 36 years as a pastor at Central Christian has led him and his team to redevelop and grow the church to have 4 different places of worship: 2 in Beloit, 1 in Machesney Park, and 1 in Janesville, all catering to different demographics, spaces, and cultures, but with a “heart for Jesus,” a strong commitment to the poor and homeless populations in the county, and service to children and underserved communities.

Clark and his wife have also adopted children from Haiti, and organized response teams for natural disasters. He said, “getting the people done is more important than getting the work done,” and stressed the significance of fostering relationships as a pillar for successful business, careers, and life.

The panelists were also on hand to field questions from the audience, ranging from “Who are your mentors and what do they mean to you,” and “How do you move on amidst failure to create a more favorable outcome?” to “Does a leader ever doubt that they’re a leader?” and “How has your personal mission/mantra guided you as a leader and throughout your career?”

It was an engaging, thought-provoking, and informative panel, full of inspiring stories — definitely a favorite experience among our class.

Nothing But Net

By: JoLynn. Burden, Forward Janesville

Nothing But Net

Nothing But Net

“Networking” is such a cliché word in the world of business. Good business is about who you know and the relationships you have built. Expanding on your rolodex of contacts can be done on a regular basis and the Leadership Development Academy groups are learning just that.

Each of us have added 29 contacts to our ‘network’ since September 7th when we began this leadership journey. Our December class learned how Forward Janesville hosts their “Nothing But Net Speed Networking” events and even was treated to a complimentary admission pass from both Forward Janesville and the Greater Beloit Chamber of Commerce to a 2018 Business After Five.

The 30 members of LDA were joined by 23 community business representatives for a one-hour speed networking session. The hour kicked off with an ice-breaker of “would you rather”. The idea behind the game was a quick 5 minute get-to-know-your-neighbor.

Once the ice-breaker was complete, LDA folks were asked to get in a large circle. The groups consisted of 2 LDA attendees (who were not on the same team) and one community representative. These groups were given about 2 minutes to exchange business cards and give each other their best elevator speech. Once the whistle rang, the community rep moved around the circle in a clockwise manner. The goal was to get around the room to meet everyone within the hour and to leave with 53 new contacts!

Networking is meant to be fun. Get to know those that live in our communities and work beside you or maybe even against you. Building relationships is the best foundation for a successful career and business success.

Site Tour of Craig High School

By: Darlene Ramirez, First Community Credit Union


After our networking session we went on a tour of Craig High School. Our tour guide was Assistant Principal, Shawn Kane. The tour began with a goat. Yes, you heard me right, a goat. The 8th graders were also doing a tour and animal science teachers wanted to promote the vet science programs.

School used to consist of core classes like English, Math and maybe some electives like Shop or Home Economics. Nowadays, students have so many more opportunities.

Instead of a shop class where you learn from a book, these students get to work on an actual vehicle. If you take an Engineering Design class, you get to learn the design process. They work on design briefs, sketching, 3D solid molding and prototyping.

Students interested in business have a chance to work at the Cougar Den, which is the school store. They are responsible for managing everything in the store. This includes the schedule, inventory and finances. So many classes are hands on.

Craig has a state recognized art department. So, as you walk through the halls you can’t help but notice all the beautiful artwork. Craig has so much to offer. Students have so many opportunities which allows them to pursue their career interest more in depth.

Fundraising Panel

By: Brentan Vivian, Baker Tilly

Fundraising Panel

Fundraising Panel

The afternoon wrapped up with a fundraising discussion panel consisting of Jon Urish of Beloit College, Joe Jimenez of Lamar Advertising Company, and Jennifer Johns of Mercy Health. The discussion panel was moderated by Sue Conley.

They discussed their current and past fundraising efforts in which they have been a part of from capital campaigns to large gift donations to specific events. They shared their strategies on how to get both potential donors and volunteers vested in fundraising campaigns to ensure it is successful. The panel also discussed other factors of a successful campaign and why some fail.

Then it was time for the LDA teams to use the information they just learned to develop a mock fundraising campaign. Each group had 15 minutes to create a fundraising campaign and then pitched it to the discussion panel who represented eight different potential donors (i.e. a local company, a widow, single mother, etc.).

The groups explained their projects, its mission and their fundraising needs. Each potential donor had a set amount of money they could donate, which they allocated to each group based on project needs or if they feel vested the project’s mission.

Group four raised the most amount, but there were a few others who were able to fully fund their project. This mock scenario has the teams better prepared for their actual fundraising campaign to ensure the successfulness of their projects.

Real Colors

By: Casey Bellard, Town of Beloit Fire Department

Who said colors are just used for coloring or painting a pretty picture? LDA colors are used to find out more about someone’s personality and individual traits.

Most people walk around with a couple or even a few colors all the time. But everyone has a dominant color that makes up who they really are. As leaders, this helps us communicate on different levels in our field of work.

Understanding colors gives us the ability to CONNECT professionally and even personally when needed. I am primary orange, but I feel as if I have a little of every color in me.

We were asked to write down the first time we were a leader and a skill you want to have on note cards. The first time I was truly asked to lead a group of people was when I was a senior in high school. Myself and 2 others were voted team captains for our high school hockey team. We were in charge of getting the team ready to go physically, in the off season. We put together team workouts and team bonding time.

Thinking back if I would have known everyone’s color at the time I may have been able to incorporate some other things to make us even better. A skill I have always wanted was to be able to play the guitar. I am not musically inclined, but I would love to take lessons someday.

Real Colors Personality Types

  • Gold: Planners, structure, getting things done on time, organized, timing
  • Orange: Spontaneous, risk takers, motivators, thinking outside the box, competitive, public speakers
  • Green: Analytical, systematic, growth minded, take in all info before making any decisions
  • Blue: “People people”, listeners, gets along with others, passionate

This post was written by “The Solid Six,” made up of LDA 2017-18 participants Tyler Mosley, Johnson Bank; Rachel Andres, Prent; Jason Klingaman, City of Janesville; Colleen Koerth, Blackhawk Technical College; Tracy Schroeder, Janesville Boys & Girls Club; and Cori Olson, Stateline Boys & Girls Club

The Leadership Development Academy (LDA) had a wonderful meeting in November hosted at Blain’s Supply Corporate Headquarters in Janesville. Jane Blain Gilbertson opened up the day with a welcome and an inspiring message on leadership. She spoke about the growth that they are seeing in their business, and how they try to attract new customers as well as talented associates.

We had a fantastic tour of Blain’s Supply’s office space as well as the distribution center. If you didn’t watch where you were going it would be very easy to get hit by one of the dozens of forklifts transporting goods to semi-trailers.


Economic Development Bus Tour

After leaving Blain’s we headed on an economic development bus tour of Janesville and Milton hosted by our partners, James Otterstein, Rock County Economic Development Manager, John Beckord, Forward Janesville and Al Hulick, City Administrator at Milton.

We went past the former General Motors plant where James spoke about the possibilities for the over 4 million square feet property. We visited downtown Janesville and spoke about the ARISE project that is under way to make downtown Janesville a much more attractive area.

There just happened to be a little alley behind Dube’s Jewelry that this group (The Solid Six) is going to be renovating for our year-end project. Make sure to look out for ways to get involved in this project as well as making downtown Janesville an attractive destination again!

On our way to Milton we got to learn about TIF districts from Al Hulick. He spoke to the effectiveness of this program and why they are so important for economic development. We drove by several spaces in Milton where businesses are expanding and creating all sorts of things.

Near the end of the tour we made a stop at Grainger where we had another wonderful tour. This facility is gigantic and to think that the whole business was started to sell chemistry sets is quite amazing! All in all we can agree that industry is booming in Rock County!


Economic Development Panel & Case Study

The afternoon was filled with a lesson on economic development facilitated by James Otterstein and John Beckord. The group was fortunate to hear about all of the behind the scenes work that happens with economic development. The message was loud and clear that economic development partners closely with their community, education and workforce development partners.

The final project for the day was each group had an opportunity to break off and work on an economic development case study. The study included resources that would be available to an economic development team who was trying to bring a new manufacturing facility to Rock County.

We had to pick a piece of property as well as sell the key decision makers for the new business on the fact that Rock County was where they need to be. And let me tell you, there are so many reasons why this is the case.

Throughout the day we were continuously reminded that Rock County is positioned to continue to bring in new businesses and not only grow in size, but to become diverse in the types of careers available.

Thank you to all of our partners for making the day informative, challenging and fun!

This post was written by Team Business as Unusual, made up of LDA 2017-18 participants Jessica Tison, City of Beloit; Rachel Roeske, HealthNet of Rock County; Josh Mummery, Mercyhealth; Lance Heinrich, ANGI Energy Systems; Lori Stewart, BMO Harris; and Jacquie Fox, Blackhawk Community Credit Union.

Scot Forge in Clinton, WI

Highlights of the Southern Rock County bus tour

Scot Forge, Clinton

The Leadership Development Academy of Rock County started their day with a tour of Scot Forge plant in Clinton Wisconsin. As their website indicates, “Our 273,000 sq.ft. Clinton plant is an open die facility known for its production of high-quality forged bars and open die forgings.” We got to tour the plant and feel the heat from the furnaces and see the transformation of many steel products. Scot Forge is currently hiring.

Beloit’s Gateway Business Park

Next we did a bus tour of the City of Beloit Gateway Business Park. Our tour guides were Aimee Thurner, Executive Director for the Greater Beloit Chamber of Commerce and James R. Otterstein, Economic Development Manager of Rock County Development Agency.

Gateway Business ParkThe Greater Beloit Economic Development Corporation owns The Gateway Business Park, a 450-acre development just off I-90/39 and I-43 just north of the WI/IL state line. The park is located within the City of Beloit’s Development Opportunity Zone which offers Tax credits to developers, financiers, and corporations that invest or locate here. The park is also included in Tax Increment District #10, making other development incentives available for businesses.

Companies located in or near the Gateway Business Park include: Kerry Americas, Staples Order Fulfillment Center, Snyder’s Lance-Kettle, Specialty Tools, Chicago Fittings, NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes, Alliance Development and Pratt Industries.

Beloit College

Following the Gateway Business Park bus tour, we followed up by picking up Jon Urish with Beloit College. Beloit College was founded in 1846 and currently has students from 46 states and 40 foreign countries.

Beloit College offers an international host program which is a great opportunity to expose you and your family and students to different cultures. There are two museums on campus, The Logan Museum of Anthropology and the Wright Museum of Art. Roy Chapman Andrews, a student of Beloit College was a great explorer and is who the character Indiana Jones was patterned after.

The college recently purchased the previous Alliant Energy building in plans to turn into a recreational – convention center for the university.

Stateline Family YMCA

The new Ironworks Branch is Open! Our next stop was the new YMCA in which we received a tour from Ann Hankins, Executive Director of Operations. All we can say is, “WOW”, what an amazing new facility with state of the art equipment and recreational opportunities.

Iron Tek Campus

Our final stop was the IronTek Campus and our tour guide was Erin Clausen. She indicated, “IronTek Campus is an amazing place to live, work and play.”

Located in downtown Beloit, Irontek is an all- encompassing, co-working space for small businesses and entrepreneurs. They offer a variety of memberships to provide the services and utilities you need to run your business.

Want to know what career opportunities there are for the youth of Beloit? Hendrick’s Career Tek provides development, education and opportunities.

Our group had the opportunity the visit IronWorks Golf Lab. If you want to improve your swing, work on putting, play some Zombie dodge ball, this place offers a variety of options for improving your game or hanging out with friends.

Panel discussion on community challenges

In the afternoon we listened to a Panel on Community Challenges. Jean Randles from SSI Technologies moderated, while the following people were guest speakers: Administrator Steve Pophal from the School District of Janesville, Commander Troy Knudson from the Rock County Sheriff’s Office, Ian Hedges from HealthNet and Marc Perry from Community Action, Inc.

A variety of issues were discussed such as: continuing education to prevent poverty, importance of education in our homes, education on how mental health plays a big factor on crime, the heroin epidemic, drug addiction and the lack of resources for recovery, lack of oral health, generational gaps and racial divide.

This conversation provided our group with an opportunity to see what issues are facing our community and how our individual groups can take on a project to address these problems.

This post was written by Team Mosaic, made up of LDA 2017-18 participants Colleen Curtis-Trappe, Blackhawk Community Credit Union; Bryan Whitehead, Nowlan & Mouat LLP; Heather Dobson, Corporate Contractors, Inc.; Will Chatman, Community Action; Derick Brunton, Town of Beloit and Sara Helgeson, City of Janesville.

Members of Team Mosaic, Class of 2017-18

Members of Team Mosaic, Class of 2017-18

Day 1


The Leadership Development Academy Class of 2017-18’s 30 participants met Sept. 7, 2017 at Prent Corporation located at 2225 Kennedy Road for Day One of orientation.

We were welcomed by Linda Ross, Executive Director of LDA; Jennie Krajeck, LDA Board Chair; along with a few other past participants, Joel Chappelle and Brian Anderson all offered insight on their experiences and past projects with the program.

We learned that success is not always measured through a completed project, but through the journey the group experiences. Joel Chappelle and Brian Anderson will also be mentors to the 2017-18 group.

Prent Corp. History & Tour

Mitch Benson of Prent Corp. provides a history lesson

Mitch Benson of Prent Corp. provides a history lesson

Mitch Benson, SVP of Manufacturing, gave the history of Prent Corporation. We are fortunate to have the globally awarded headquarters right here in Janesville Wisconsin.

The group split for plant tours. Our tour witnessed efficiently run lines and was told about Prent Corporation’s efforts and benefits of being a green organization.

Real Colors

Prior to Mitch Benson’s tour, Linda Ross outlined “Real Colors.” Real Colors is a research tool that will provide insight to those participating. The series of questions provide and measure answers to provide tools to help better communicate with people based on their viewpoint/personality. It is interesting and fun to align the colors to one’s personality.

Day 2

Our second day was spent at the Outdoor Wisconsin Leadership School (OWLS) in Fontana, Wisconsin.

As a group, we participated in some warm up exercises than broke off into two groups to master the obstacles on the top of the hill. The obstacles offered each of us opportunities to push through our comfort zone. It was encouraging to be surrounded by others working together to achieve, overcome and conquer one’s fear.

Our group offered our OWLS leader, Addie, some challenging moments. One must be very specific when dealing with orange personalities. Group direction was outlined with what the end result should be. Struggles occurred, but in the end our group successfully broke the camp records with the crate tower and the fire rescue.

Below are some photos displaying how our teamwork achieved success:

Linda Ross,
Executive Director


Editor’s note: As a Leadership Development Academy alum (Class of 2013-14), Linda Ross is passionate about the mission of the organization and enjoys working as  Executive Director/Program Facilitator. Wisdom acquired at LDA empowers her to continue her success in business.  She is excited to work with others to obtain their leadership goals.

Congratulations LDA Class of 2017

Congratulations to the Leadership Development Academy Class of 2017!  Five team projects, 28 graduating LDA participants and ten really great sessions; resulting in changed lives and a better community.  I couldn’t be more proud of the participants and the effort they put forth this year.  

Project Presentations and Graduation

We decided to combine project presentations and graduation into a one day event.  I believe it was the perfect culmination of a great year.  Taking place at the Venue in Janesville, and it suited our day perfectly.  If you have not been in the Venue, you really need to stop by.  It is historic and beautiful.  Megan O’Leary Photography captured our day on her camera.  She does an outstanding job.

5 Project Teams

This year the LDA had 5 project teams.  They all had amazing projects to present to those who were listening.  The projects were:  “Take Action, Create Awareness, Advocate!” for Project 16:49.  Feeding Our Future for the Boys & Girls Club of Janesville. First Light for first responders.  Diaper Bank for Caritas.  Planting the Seeds of Change for the GIFTS’ Homeless Shelter for Men.  Each project  makes a difference for residents of our communities.  

Take Action, Create Awareness, Advocate!

“Take Action, Create Awareness, Advocate!” for Project 16:49 is from the Team Rockin’ Top Shelfers.  They are partnering with Project 16:49 to create an Advocacy Committee.  This committee focuses on any needs or struggles of the organization.  It will establish a financial basis for unaccompanied youth, initiate and establish a network of credible landlords and  support changes to state statutes.  The Top Shelfers participated in the Lip Sync Battle for Project 16:49 and raised more than $3,500 for the program.

Tammy Eliszewski, Ashley Rosenbaum, Joe Rose,  Bobbie Kedrowski, Alex Hanson, and Kelly Willoughby

Feeding Our Future

Feeding Our Future provides daily snacks to Boys & Girls Club of Janesville members during the school year. It results in an estimated 12,000 free, nutritious snacks per year to youth in the Janesville area.  Feeding Our Future helps supply children with the nutrients they may not be receiving at home due to income or lack of information on healthy eating.  It strives to have a lasting impact by introducing members to new, healthy foods. Hopefully they will continue to incorporate them into their diets into adulthood.  Snacks meet the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction food standards.

Wendy Bumgarner, Lily Lux,  Josh Andersen, Michael Warren and Angie Hoium

First Light

First Light is a project modeled on the idea of providing emergency shelter in the midst of a crisis. Dire situations, such as no heat on the coldest night of the year, are made all the more challenging due to the fact that help isn’t available 24 hours per day or on weekends from other resources. 

In such situations, people often turn to first responders for aid. Many of these agencies are ill-equipped to help in these situations.  It is not uncommon for first responders to take money out of their own pockets to meet these needs, especially when it comes to finding food and shelter. Such generosity is beyond the call of duty, and is unsustainable.

First Light aims to fill this resource gap. It will equip first responders throughout Rock County with a series of shelter vouchers to help with short-term shelter needs in a very real way. Working with hotels in Rock County, the project aims to combine both temporary relief and long-term education. Along with vouchers, a guide will be given out to help link them up with various resources to help meet their long-term needs.

Bryan Hasse, Stephanie Bailey,  Jenny Ryan, Julie Gietzel and Nate Fuller

Diaper Bank

Another team is assisting Caritas in the creation of a diaper bank to serve all of Rock County.  Caritas, a Rock County community resource center, is currently in the process of a building expansion.  It is also transitioning from a clothing bank to a diaper bank.  One in three families struggle with a lack of adequate diaper supply at some point.  These families are often times struggling with additional basic needs such as food and financial security.  

This lack of resources can result in economic, mental and physical stress.  A lack of clean and adequate diapers can result in sickness for the child and denial of child care.  As a result, parents have to miss work.  When unable to meet basic needs, parents are less likely to be as involved in the child’s development.  Collecting more than 10,000 diapers, students at the Janesville School District helped to “Stuff a Bus” with diapers.  

Shawn Kane, LeAnn Jones, Jenny McCarthy and Kathryn Scott    Not pictured:  Katie Wheelock

Planting the Seeds of Change

The fifth team is Planting the Seeds of Change for the  Gifts’ Homeless Shelter for Men.  Their project is to provide landscaping and gardens at the new Gifts’ Homeless Shelter for Men in Janesville.  The team is working with K & W Greenery to realize the organization’s vision for the exterior grounds of its new facility.  In addition to decorative landscaping around the front and sides of the building, they are installing a useful and beautiful outdoor area.  In this area, Gifts’ guests can garden, socialize, and engage in healthy recreational activities.  This project will be completed this summer.  If you are looking to volunteer, there is much work to be done.

Joel Chappelle, Darnisha Wisdom, Sally Pope, Holly Bultman, Theresa Gunderson and Gene Wright

A Time of Celebration

Graduation was a time of celebration!  We heard from speakers who were alum, sponsors and class participants. Graduation certificates and photos were given out to each one who completed the LDA class.  We had 104 people in attendance!

Board Chair

LDA Board Chair, Katrina Bird, welcomed everyone and thanked them for coming.

Project Presentation and Graduation Sponsor

First Community Credit Union was our Project Presentation and Graduation Day sponsor.  Jack Gill offered congratulations to the class.

Class of 2017 Speakers

Representing the Class of 2017 was Joel Chappelle and Kelly Willoughby.  Both were grateful for the eye-opening sessions that helped create awareness of Rock County and of themselves.  

Platinum Sponsor

The Platinum Sponsor for LDA is ANGI Energy Systems.  Jason Lund shared how the LDA is making a difference in their organization through their 5 graduates.

Keynote Speaker

Brian Anderson, LDA Class of 2008 from Johnson Bank, shared about leadership.  He also shared how LDA has made a difference in his life and in the lives of others in our community.


The Moment They Have Been Waiting For

Katrina and I had the privilege of giving the graduation certificates to the class.  As each one was approaching, memories of this past year flooded my mind, as well as my heart.

A Cob of Corn

As a wrap up, I used a cob of corn to remind each participant to take the seeds/tools that they have and to continue to plant others from their growth.  Each one in the LDA class was given many tools.  With them, they will give back and serve our community.

Do Great Things

I believe they will all do great things.  I believe they will keep the momentum going and they will be the best they can be.

Fantastic Board of Directors

Some of the LDA Board of Directors were able to join us for the events.  This board is fantastic to work with!

Congratulations Class of 2017!

Congratulations to the Leadership Development Academy Class of 2017!  Have some fun.  You earned it!








Linda Ross,
Executive Director


Editor’s note: As a Leadership Development Academy alum (Class of 2013-14), Linda Ross is passionate about the mission of the organization and enjoys working as  Executive Director/Program Facilitator. Wisdom acquired at LDA empowers her to continue her success in business.  She is excited to work with others to obtain their leadership goals.

Volunteering and Mini-Projects

Volunteering can change your life and the lives of others.  The Leadership Development Academy class learned all about that from our panel of experts, then were able to put what they learned into practice.  In the morning we met at IronTek in Beloit.  During the afternoon,  participants divided up into teams and worked on mini-projects at non-profits in Beloit.

A Panel who Loves Volunteers!

Have you ever been listening so intently to someone that you forgot to do something? I forgot to take the panel’s photo.  Yes, I did, so I’ll just have to tell you about it and show you a photo of a cute puppy available for adoption from one of our panel member’s non-profit.  I think you will be able to figure out which one it is from.

Our panel was moderated by Jennifer Johns from Mercyhealth, and included Donna Ambrose from Caritas, Michelle Matthys from First National Bank, Brett Frazier from the Rock County Humane Society, Sandy Johnson from CASA of Rock County and Jill Ayres from Mercy Hospital.  They are all passionate and love volunteers.  They find their volunteers from word of mouth, social gatherings, social media, and hopefully from this blog.

Volunteers are Customers

Mercy Hospital and Trauma Center in Janesville has more than 81,000 volunteer hours recorded each year, the equivalent of more than 39 full time staff members.  Jill Ayres stressed the importance of choosing where you would like to volunteer based on your passion.  She said volunteers are her customers, so she makes sure to thank them every day, keep them busy and make time for them, so they feel important.

Volunteers Must be Committed

Sandy Johnson, who started as a volunteer for CASA, and is now the director, has walked the walk, so now she can talk the talk to the LDA class.  She makes sure to choose the right volunteers to serve at CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of Rock County.  Not everyone is cut out for the job.  They have to be committed, reliable and be willing to stay for as long as the child needs them.  Most of the children, who are served at CASA, are under age five and are great kids.  They need someone who will stick with them, because the last thing they need is another person to walk out of their lives.

Let Them Discover Their Passion

Volunteering has to be positive and have an element of fun, Brett Frazier from the Rock County Humane Society, told the participants.  You can’t place restrictions on volunteers.  Let them discover their passion.  A young person may come in the door thinking they want to walk dogs, then participate in a surgery and find they want to go to school to be a vet tech. Don’t limit them.  Brett said some of the best volunteers go to organizations with opportunities or ideas they have for them.  Sometimes the ideas help shape the organization’s future.

Volunteering Makes You Humble

Find something you are passionate about.  Boards don’t need bodies, they need working bodies. When you are at events, you had better be representing boards you are sitting on. Great advice from Michelle Matthys from First National Bank.  She enjoys networking and has become friends with those she is on boards with.  As humans, we are selfish and volunteering makes you humble, she told the class.  Don’t volunteer for personal gain.  If you have an agenda, don’t volunteer.  If you are looking to help others and give back, volunteering is for you.

Feedback is Important

Donna Ambrose, from Caritas, has learned a lot of skills from volunteers and volunteering, such as human resource skills.  People need to find their niche or professional skill set and give time to organizations that fit them.  Donna has been seeing an increase in volunteers, especially from high schools and first responders.  She likes feedback from volunteers, because if she doesn’t know something is wrong, she can’t fix it.  Flexibility and people who understand their mission are her best volunteers.

All of our panel had heartwarming stories to tell about their volunteers.  They said they could go on and on.  Volunteering changes people and organizations.  Most non-profits could not do the great work they do without them.  Volunteer and change the community you live in!

Benefits of Volunteering

Erin Loveland

Erin Loveland shared the benefits of volunteering.  She has been with House of Mercy for years and has a heart for the homeless and for volunteers.  Many of us don’t think about most volunteer opportunities being in informal settings, such as shoveling for your neighbor or making dinner for someone who is sick.  People who volunteer have an increased sense of well being and mental health.  You can learn job skills and network.  Many community services would have to decrease without volunteer labor and Erin is grateful for those who volunteer.

School Leaders, Parks & Families

Speeches were on the agenda for those who couldn’t share at the last session.  Most chose to share Rock County’s great assets.  Teachers and school leaders, as well as the wonderful parks and businesses in our communities came up.  Families are admired.  We all have so much to be thankful for in the area we live in.  Look around you and pay attention, then thank others who make Rock County a better place to be.

Civic Responsibilities & Government

Dan Cunningham, from Forward Janesville, is very passionate about politics and government.  It shows.  Dan encouraged the participants to contact their legislators and local officials.  He said government is everywhere and we can make a big difference by getting involved locally.  A group from Rock County recently took a trip to Washington DC, and Dan, who used to work there, said it feels “normal”.  Government is not built to change quickly and it takes time to see results.  Government is everywhere in our lives, so get involved and make a difference, he told the class.

Dan Cunningham

Greater Beloit Chamber & IronTek

The Greater Beloit Chamber hosted us at Irontek and provided a taco bar for lunch.  They always treat us so well and we appreciate their hospitality!  If you have not been to the business incubator to visit, be sure to stop by soon.  

Megan O’Leary Photography

Irontek was a great place for the class to take group and team photos.  The space is bright, airy and interesting.  Megan O’Leary Photography does a fantastic job for us each year.  Come back next month to see the photos.


In the afternoon, the class was able to put their volunteer skills into practice.  Four non-profits in Beloit needed help, so the class pitched in to make a difference in their community.  

Stateline Boys & Girls Club

One of the teams worked at the Stateline Boys & Girls Club.  The weather was beautiful, so they started in an outside garage area, then moved into organizing their art classroom and inside storage areas. They filled two dumpsters and really made a difference for them.

Beloit Domestic Violence Survivor Center

Another team helped out at the Beloit Domestic Violence Survivor Center.  They worked on painting their main bathroom and a wall in their living room.  It looked fresh and clean when they were finished.

Community Action

Community Action was looking for help in their Community Garden, as well as doing some odd jobs at one of the houses they are working on in the Merrill neighborhood.  I was impressed with the amount of work they had done by the time I got there.


Caritas needed help unloading their Second Harvest Food Bank Truck. Once unloaded, the team helped inside with sorting, labeling and many other jobs that needed to be done.  It was fun to watch everyone so eager to tackle each job with gusto.

Making a Difference

Another great day at the Leadership Development Academy session, making a difference in our communities by giving back and volunteering.  Nonprofits always need help, so find one that fits your skill set and get started today!