Our Blog

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.

Public Speaking and Active Shooter Training

What do public speaking, a leadership game, an organization that helps clients with disabilities, an FBI agent, active shooter training and emergency medical procedures have in common?  The Leadership Development Academy’s training for participants at the March session, held at KANDU Industries and Mercyhealth in Janesville, of course.

Public Speaking

Our day started with some great speeches from Leadership Development Academy (LDA) participants.  The dreaded speeches!  Little did they know, they have been preparing all year for this day.  Each month, participants are presenting information about their team projects.  Through these presentations, they have the opportunity to be in front of others.  We have been breaking them in slowly.  

The speeches were heartfelt and informative.  Some spoke about who they admire.  Others about the most valuable thing they have learned in LDA.   All of them spoke about people.  People they admire.  Some who are still with us and some who are not.

Several shared about Rock County’s greatest asset.  Guess what it is…people.  We are the greatest asset.  The class is like family now.  They look out for one another and have made friendships that will last a lifetime. The speeches were moving; each and every one of them.  

The Leadership Game

Next up…the Leadership Game.  Challenging and sometimes frustrating, the Leadership Game invites participants to rely on their teammates for answers.  This game throws participants into scenarios they need to come up with solutions for.  Sometimes there is no right answers, just like in real life.  

Leadership Development Academy board members, Lori Stottler from the City of Beloit, Joe Jimenez from KANDU Industries, and AmyJo Verbeten from SSM Health, set the bar high for the class.  Presenting to the board, each team was able to gain points during the competition when they answered questions correctly.  They also gained several extra points when everyone presented. The depth of understanding the class has always amazes me.

Generous Project Donations

Not to be missed is the support from participants to the other project teams.  One team is collecting diapers to “Stuff a Bus” and donate them to Caritas.  Participants brought a cart full of diapers to support the team.

At KANDU, We Kan Do!

At KANDU, We Kan Do!  Gary Bersell, Executive Director of KANDU Industries, gives a great message and tour.  KANDU provides diverse opportunities for persons with disabilities or disadvantages, to have the opportunity to pursue greater independence and meet their full potential.  For the clients, it is a workplace, social life, recreation and fun.  Best Events is part of KANDU and they offer full service catering and event production.  They can make anyplace look amazing.

We also had the privilege to have lunch with the clients.  John sat at our table.  He has worked at KANDU for 24 years and loves it there.  A huge Packer fan, he has a smile on his face and is friendly to everyone he meets.  Thanks for hosting and sharing the love with us, KANDU!

FBI Agent GB Jones

Workplace Violence and Active Shooter Awareness and Preparation was empowering! GB Jones, an FBI agent, who is married to one of the class participants, shared his story with the class.  Agent Jones has been involved in four active shooter events in his career, so he knows what he is talking about when he presents.  Giving the class tools and resources to identify “at risk” individuals before a problem happens was empowering.  There are pre-attack indicators, such as a personal grievance; contextually inappropriate acquisition of multiple weapons and interest in explosives; an intense fascination with previous mass attacks; and a personal loss prior to the event, such as a death, divorce or loss of a job.

Run, Hide, Fight!

It was interesting to learn that typically active shooters have no prior history of mental illness.  Everyone workplace needs to have an emergency operations plan in place.  The Run, Hide, Fight video is a good example of a company who took time preparing for an emergency. Get out quickly if you can. If not, hide.  If you have to, fight for your life.  Agent Jones shared with us for an hour and made the class truly think about what they would do in case of an emergency.

Dr. Christopher Wistrom

Dr. Christopher Wistrom is the Associate EMS Medical Director and a staff physician on MD-1, an emergency response vehicle.  MD-1 brings hospital-level care directly to the scene of a trauma or medical emergency.  Dr. Wistrom is engaging, funny and direct.  He cares about the community and he understands that training can make a difference between life and death.  He wants to empower people and teach them how to deal with situations from the inside, so if there is an emergency and first responders can’t get in, others can provide the care that is needed.  The only way to increase survivability is to increase preparedness.

Dr. Wistrom would like to see every young person in the classroom, grades 7 and up, be prepared in case of emergency.  Mercyhealth has a program called “Casualty Care in the Classroom” to take care of this.  They also have a program called, “Casualty Care in the Workplace”.  Give Mercyhealth a call and they can set you up for the training.

Tactical EMS Training Center

Did you know that there is a 25,000 square-foot tactical EMS Training Center in Janesville?  Mercyhealth provides this facility for law enforcement and EMS training. There is nothing like it in the region.  LDA participants were able to put on tactical vests, grab training weapons and respond like a Rescue Task Force.  

Led by Gene Wright, Fire Chief for the Town of Beloit, who is a LDA participant this year, the class gained a better understanding of what it would be like to respond to an active shooter incident.  Chief Wright lead the class into an office setting and explained what to expect.  Mannequins lying on the floor, bleeding and crying out in pain made the scenario seem real.

Bryan Hasse, Police Officer for the Town of Beloit, also a LDA participant, taught the class how to pack a wound that is bleeding.  Some were squeamish, but all stepped up to the plate and packed the wound.  

LeAnn Jones, Police Officer for the Town of Beloit, also a LDA participant, taught the class how to properly apply a tourniquet and what to look for to use in a room if you don’t have the proper supplies.  We are so thankful to our first responders and their knowledge.

As if our day hadn’t been full enough, we toured the training facility with it’s state of the art simulation labs.  They have it all…church, office, ER, classroom, boardroom, theater, night club, locker rooms and an apartment.  The simulation labs have sounds and realistic backgrounds to make you feel like you are really in that environment.  Well done, Mercyhealth, well done!

Exhausted, but Empowered!

What a day!  Public speaking, a leadership game, an organization that helps clients with disabilities, an FBI agent, active shooter training and emergency medical procedures.  Everyone was exhausted, but feeling empowered.  We live in a great community and are thankful for the people who share it with us.

Linda Ross, Executive Director

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.

Marketing and Branding

Marketing and branding.  Most people think they don’t need to know about them to do their jobs and to get by in life.  The Leadership Development Academy participants found out how wrong they are with this thinking.  Marketing and branding surrounds us everyday and affects many decisions we make.  Knowing about them can help us make better decisions and influence others.  Meeting at ANGI Energy Systems for our February session was outstanding.

Brand Building with Social Media

What brand do you think of when you think of stopping for a good cup of coffee?  A quick bite on the run?  Watching a movie?  Eric Kuznacic, from Why the Fuss? Technical Solutions presents, “Brand Building with Social Media.”  This session helps the class have a better understanding of what branding is and how to use it.  Several in the class were thinking of Starbucks for a cup of coffee.  Creating a strong brand, Starbucks does a great job of presenting the same cup of coffee at each of their locations.  Branding, used in each one of the team projects, is important to understand if you want to use it correctly.  

Guiding the class through developing a set of core values, Eric explains how they are part of the organization’s/project’s DNA. It defines what you stand for.  He also shares 10 rules of building a strong brand on social media.  The rules are:  consistency, a strong logo, colors, voice and style, be a human, limit plugs, tell stories, transparency, be relevant and use visuals.  If you are missing any of these, your brand will not be as strong as it needs to be.

Work Shouldn’t Suck!

Tim Storm shared that he was looking for something he could do, that served a need he saw, that he could fulfill.  He started an online user community for coupons and shopping deals, Fat Wallet, in a spare bedroom in 1999.  Ten months later, he quit his “real” job to follow his dream.  Learning the power of the third power endorsement, Tim used it to his advantage.  When hiring employees, he was convinced you can train job skills, but it is very hard to train integrity.  From this he created the core values of Fat Wallet.  They are integrity, commitment, change, passion, balance, respect and fun.   Carrying these values into their culture, the slogan, “Work shouldn’t suck!”, was created.

Tim believes no one should ever use work as an excuse to miss a life event, such as your child’s kindergarten graduation.  Staff was taught to walk the walk, and talk the talk.  Fat Wallet was voted one of the best places to work in the United States while Tim was at the helm (#20 in 2010 and #13 in 2011).  He sold the company in 2011.

Recommending his top four books, Tim’s new favorite is, Anything you Want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur by Derek Sivers.  The next is, Scaling Up by Verne Harnish.   The third and fourth, Purple Cow and What to do When It’s Your Turn: (and It’s Always Your Turn), both by Seth Godin.  He encouraged the class to keep reading and learning each day.

ANGI Energy Systems

Welcoming the class and giving a brief overview of the great things they are working on was Jason Lund, President of ANGI Energy Systems.  ANGI is a premier supplier of gas station equipment for alternative energy, namely compressed natural gas.   

The group took a tour of ANGI’s plant, led by some great tour guides.  The facility is extremely clean and everyone is very friendly.  We saw CNG components that were being built to ship to many places in the world.  It was an amazing tour and we are grateful to have experienced it.  Following the tour, ANGI provided the class with a delicious lunch from Qdoba.


ANGI Energy Systems is a Platinum Sponsor of the Leadership Development Academy.  We are thankful for their support and partnership.  

Marketing Experts

In the afternoon, participants worked on the marketing and branding of their projects. Helping with marketing advice were experts, Katrina Bird from First Community Credit Union, Erin Clausen from Hendricks Commercial Properties, Jen DeGarmo from FIDO, and Helen DeMuth and Kristin Zeilinger from Fetch Graphics.

Team Projects

Team Rockin’ Top Shelfers are working on a project to support Project 16:49, financially and through legislation.

Working on a project to provide a new snack program for the Janesville Boys & Girls Club, is Team BLAWH.

Team R C R S is working on a project called First Light. This project will support first responders, who need to help those who are in critical situations, find a place to spend the night.

Filling a school bus with diapers to donate to Caritas and renovating a room for a diaper bank is Team 5 4 Community. 

Team Rock Strong is landscaping and building a community garden for the new GIFTS Men’s Shelter.

Important, Influential and Effective

Each Leadership Development Academy project team is equipped to have a strong, effective branding and marketing plan.  Participants have an understanding of how core values make a huge difference in their organizations and projects.  Using the tools they have acquired, they can go back to their companies and generate success.  Marketing and branding…Important, influential and effective.


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.

Homelessness, Poverty and Diversity

Homelessness, poverty and diversity.  Tough problems.  What is being done to help with these issues?  Can the Leadership Development Academy make a difference or are the problems too big?  Listening to heartbreaking journeys, participants walked through simulations and did some soul searching during their January session at Community Action in Beloit.

A Changed Man

Danny Robinson lost everything.  Drugs and alcohol took it away.  Danny lost a job of many years, his marriage, his family, his home, his car, everything.  Hitting rock bottom, he was brought to a treatment center, then sent to Gifts Men’s Shelter in Janesville.  With a huge chip on his shoulder when he arrived, it took awhile to soften his heart.  

Now a changed man, Danny is helping others on their journey to recovery.  It wasn’t easy, but he is a success story.  He has a twinkle in his eye and joy in his heart.  Danny choked up when he talked about finally having his grand-kids call him Paw Paw again.   He wants to share his story with others to help them.  Rock County has 250 to 350 homeless needing to be housed each night.  We are thankful for Danny and the many shelters and programs in our area that help the homeless to get back on their feet.

Homelessness is a Major Issue

Homelessness is a big problem with every age group.  No one is immune.  Our panel on poverty and homelessness shared what they are doing to help. Stephanie Burton from the Gifts Men’s Shelter, Erin Loveland from House of Mercy, Tammy DeGarmo from Project 16:49 and Carrie Kulinski from the School District of Janesville were all on hand to share.  

Young children lose 6 months of learning each time they move to a different school.  Drugs, sex trafficking, sexual abuse, alcoholism and physical abuse are some of the issues they are dealing with.  Heartbreaking and eye opening. Each of the panel members are very passionate about these issues.  They continue to attempt to remove barriers.  Transportation issues is one of the biggest.  Holding down a job is nearly impossible without transportation.  The HITF (Homeless Intervention Task Force) is addressing many of these issues through education and awareness.  Involvement and education is key.

One in Five Live in Poverty in Wisconsin

Hunger is an issue throughout the world.  Sometimes we turn a blind eye to it.  The Leadership Development Academy class experienced a hunger simulation during the session.  Facilitating the program was Bard Meier, from the Hunger Task Force in Milwaukee.  Each participant was given an identity.  Some single with transportation; others with large families and no transportation.  Each with a different amount of money and parameters they were working with, while attempting to feed their family for three days.  Many found it frustrating and nearly impossible.   

Why do we throw LDA participants into situations they are not equipped to deal with?  For a learning experience.  People who are hungry do not choose to be hungry, yet they have to feed their family everyday.  Many have jobs, but not enough money to provide for their basic needs. One in five people live in poverty in Wisconsin.  Rural areas are impacted more, due to transportation issues.  In northern Wisconsin, one in three live in poverty.  There are resources, but sometimes those resources are difficult to obtain.  Therefore, communities who will not admit there is a problem can leave families and children hungry.

Spoiled Again

Participants were treated to homemade scones and coffee from Joe and Amber Jimenez; and Johnson Bank provided a delicious lunch.  Johnson Bank has been one of our sponsors for many years and we are thankful for their partnership.

Team Projects

Working with project teams each month are board mentors.  This year’s projects are benefiting Project 16:49, Caritas, First Responders of Rock County, the Gifts Men’s Shelter and the Boys and Girls Club of Janesville.

Restorative Practices and Diversity

Diversity comes in many forms. Walking the class through a session on diversity was Tasha Bell and David Wilson, from the School District of Beloit.  Mutual respect, speaking the truth and confidentiality are a must.  Sharing how to work through “Restorative Practices” was interesting.  Don’t ask, “Why?”, ask “What happened?”  

At the beginning of the session, participants were asked, “What gets in the way of you being the best professional you can be?”  At the end of the session, they were asked, “If you came to yourself for help, how would you help yourself to overcome those things?”

We all need to have an understanding of human differences to learn more and judge less.  What is our purpose? Great session for becoming empowered!

Community Action

Katie Lawler, from Community Action, who is in our Leadership Development Academy class, provided information on the services they offer.  Leading the class on a tour of the facility, she gave them a better understanding of Community Action.

Kids Against Hunger

John Wong shared what Kids Against Hunger is all about.  The Rotary Clubs of Rock County are working together to help support this organization. Millions of meals have been provided locally, as well as being sent throughout the world. Sharing some excellent leadership tips, John was encouraging.  He inspired the class to learn how to delegate, follow through with what you say you are going to do, be efficient, be respectful of others opinions and time, and to give back of your time, talents and wealth.  John said, “God gave us two ears and one mouth, so listen twice as much as you talk.”   We are thankful for local leaders who share with our class and are truly making a difference in our community.


Empowering day, filled with some tough moments.  Each person walked away with a better understanding of these challenges and of themselves.  They now know how they can make a difference with poverty, homelessness and diversity; and I am confident they will!

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.

Leadership, Networking and Fundraising

How would you define “leadership”?  Does a leader ever doubt they are a leader?  Who inspires you? How do you network?  How should we go about fundraising?  These questions and more were answered at the December session of the Leadership Development Academy (LDA).  We met at SSM Health St Mary’s Hospital in Janesville.


The day started with a brainstorming session led by AmyJo Verbeten, from SSM Health and a LDA board member.  AmyJo asked participants what qualities good leaders had.  Their answers were right on target.  Leaders listen, have integrity, serve, are humble, have integrity, vision and more.  These answers were evident in the next session during our leadership panel.  

Leadership Panel

The leadership panel was nothing short of phenomenal.  Joining us for the panel was Larry Squire from Johnson Bank, Mitch Benson from Prent Corporation, Jane Blain Gilbertson from Blain Supply and Dr. David Clark from Central Christian Church.  The experience, humility, wisdom and passion on this panel were second to none.  In my opinion, it was the best panel I have ever had the pleasure to listen to.  They are all great servant-leaders in our community.  Hearing from the leaders and understanding that they have struggled through their journey to get to where they are, helps others to keep moving forward when they are feeling inadequate.

Powerful Advice

Sharing with the participants, the panel gave expert advice.  Leaders should have vision, a fire in their belly, character (can you be trusted) and skills; in that order.  If you are great with the first three, skills will come and others will follow.  A leader must know when to talk and when to listen.  Leaders don’t build followers, they build more leaders.  The culture of your organization in most important. You must know where you need to grow, so you can teach others how to grow.  Find a career you like and one you can thrive in.  Momentum is everything.  See your business as a game you want to win.  Have a mentor and be a mentor.  Everyone is a leader, because everyone is a parent, spouse, friend or someone others follow.  I think  you get the picture.  It truly was extraordinary!


Craig DeGarmo, from DeGarmo Plumbing, and Jen DeGarmo, from FIDO, shared with the class about networking.  A great team and engaging, Craig and Jen compared what the experts say about networking and what has worked for them.  Ask open ended questions.  Be intentional.  Be yourself.  Keep your eyes open for networking opportunities. Listen. Network with the right people.  They put the class at ease for the Nothing But Net session they would experience after lunch.

Warm Cookies and Hot Chocolate

SSM Health provided lunch and snacks throughout the day.  It was all delicious and we were spoiled by hot chocolate with marshmallows and warm Christmas cookies in the afternoon.  The class wants to meet here every month!  

Nothing But Net

Forward Janesville joined the Leadership Development Academy and the Greater Beloit Chamber for the largest Nothing But Net event they have ever held!  More than 50 people networked during the lunch hour.  JoLynn Burden, from Forward Janesville, organized the event and made it fun for all.  From finding others to form the best poker hand, to collecting business cards and introducing yourself, to playing Bingo, everyone was laughing and having a good time, while making connections.  It was a very non-intimidating way to network and in the end, everyone walked away with new connections and smiles on their faces.

Fundraising Panel

In the afternoon, fundraising was the name of the game.  Each team is working on a team project and many of them will need to do some fundraising to support their project.  Several of the participants have never had fundraising experience, so we brought in a few experts to share with them how it is done.  Our panel was a bit short, because one panel member’s hot water heater broke that morning and another had a family emergency, so they weren’t able to make it.  Thankfully, during our Nothing But Net session, I met someone who does fundraising for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and she was able to stay and help out with the afternoon sessions.  She stepped up like any great leader would.  Truly gracious and helpful!

Fundraising is like a “Dating Experience”

On the panel were Jen Johns from Mercy Health System and an LDA board member, Joe Jimenez from KANDU Industries and an LDA board member, Jon Urish from Beloit College and Abby Leverenz from the Muscular Dystrophy Association.  The panel gave great advice to the class.  They told them to not forget to ask people who have given in the past.  Know who you are asking.  Dig and see who they have given to in the past.  They also explained how fundraising is like a “dating experience” and is built on relationships.  It was very informative and help the class gain knowledge to use during the last session of the day.

Fundraising Simulation

During the last session we had a fundraising simulation.  Participants worked with their teams to come up with a presentation to give to the panel to ask for money for their projects.  I helped out on the panel for the simulation.  The panel represented a small business, a wealthy widow, a large corporation, a single person living in the city, a single mom concerned with social issues, a married couple and a community foundation.

This simulation gave the class experience in making the ask and the panel gave feedback about why they would or would not give money to the team.  Some of the panel gave money, because they felt it was an issue they would support.  Not everyone gave money to every cause, which is what happens in real life.  The class learned how to present their project and how to ask for funding.  We are hoping they are now equipped to go out and seek the funds they need to support their projects.

Powerful Day!

We had a full day learning from some top-notch leaders in our area about what leadership is, how to be effective at networking and how to support projects with fundraising.  It was a busy day, filled with laughter and sharing, and in my opinion, one of the best Leadership Development Academy  sessions we have had.   I can’t wait until next month!

Linda Ross, Executive Director

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.

Questioning Economic Development

Have you ever wondered what economic development is all about?  What does it take to bring a company to Rock County?  How many agencies are involved?  What is the process?  What is the timeline?  Is Rock County ready to welcome new businesses?  These questions and more were answered when the Leadership Development Academy (LDA) met in November for an economic development session at Blain Supply.  

Blain Supply

Our morning began with a welcome and tour with Bill Schendt from Blain Supply.  He has been with Blain Supply for 34 years and you can tell his is very passionate about the company.  Bill explained to the participants why mentoring is so important. You need to seek one and be one.  Leadership, once developed, must be passed on.


Touring Blain Supply was interesting.  We met in their conference center, a top-notch facility.  They invest a great deal in their people and it shows by their dedication and hard work.  Going behind the scenes, we visited the distribution center, photography studio and call center.  


Economic Development Tour of Janesville and Milton

The sun was shining as we were touring Janesville and Milton in a VanGalder motor coach.  James Otterstein from the Rock County Development Alliance, John Beckord from Forward Janesville and Al Hulick from the City of Milton, shared  what was happening in our area.  Rock County was the first place in the country to be shovel ready.  This means there are zero barriers for a company to build.  Places on our route included downtown Janesville, the GM property, southside industrial corridor and Milton’s business park.


Advanced Manufacturing Center

In Milton, Dr Tracy Pierner, from Blackhawk Technical College (BTC), welcomed us to the Advanced Manufacturing Center.  Many exciting changes are happening at BTC and they are ready and willing to help businesses and students adapt to changing needs.  Dr. Garry Krause took us on a tour of the facility. Students will be well equipped after training at this facility.

Back to Blain Supply for a great lunch and team project work.  The project teams are narrowing their focus and will soon be announcing their projects.  Exciting!

Economic Development 101

Economic Development 101 was the name of the game in the afternoon.  There are not many people who have as much information inside their heads as James Otterstein does.  He really knows his stuff!  He shared numbers and let the class know Rock County is stronger in our economy today, than we were in 2007.  James couldn’t tell us all his secrets, but he let us know several good things are on the horizon.  Thankfully, we are moving in the right direction.  This wouldn’t happen without the dedication and teamwork of several agencies in our area.


“Project Cougar”

Each project team worked on a case study in the afternoon, trying to convince “Project Cougar”, a new company coming to the area, that Rock County was the place they should locate their business.  They discovered there is a great deal that goes into these presentations, which includes many agencies and organizations working together.  The competition is fierce, the stakes are high and it is not as easy as it looks.

The class presented their solutions to James Otterstein, and Dan Cunningham from Forward Janesville.  They threw out some economic development questions that stumped the teams and were surprised when they had answers to others.  In the end, I think the class decided to leave it to the professionals and be thankful for the great job they are doing in Rock County.

All in all, it was a day packed with information and a day that will be remembered as the class shares with others.  Economic development can be overwhelming and exciting at the same time.  We are happy to leave it with the professionals and are glad they shared with us this month.

Linda Ross, Executive Director

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.


Leadership Development Academy has a Perfect Day for a Tour of Southern Rock County


Perfect day for a tour of the Beloit Ironworks and Scot Forge in Clinton as part of a Southern Rock County economic development bus tour!  The Leadership Development Academy spent the afternoon digging into complex problem solving and project planning.   The day ended with a panel on the Top 10 Community Challenges.


Touring Ironworks in Beloit

We truly have some top-notch organizations in Southern Rock County.  Touring the Ironworks complex shows how to take an old foundry, restore it, put it to use, and consequently, change a community.  It was home to Beloit Corp for nearly 150 years; now, it houses Hendricks Commercial Properties, IronTek, Ebates, Comply365, Universal Acoustic & Emission Technologies, AccuLynx, Beloit Regional Hospice, and many others.  The Leadership Development Academy participants enjoyed learning about several of these businesses and the difference they are making in our communities.  Soon the YMCA will be opening its doors in the Ironworks Complex, as well. The renovations never seem to stop.


Touring Scot Forge in Clinton

Moving right along, the Leadership Development Academy took a luxury coach from VanGalder over to Clinton to tour Scot Forge.  While the friendly Scot Forge tour guides gave a warm welcome, hard hats and safety glasses were passed out.  Most noteworthy is seeing the forge shape heated metal parts, which is truly an amazing process.  Each piece is heated to between 500 to 2400 degrees F, then gradually shaped with skillful hammering and pressing.  You would have to see it to believe it.  It is something I could look at for hours, as a result, the participants didn’t want to stop watching.  


Economic Development Bus Tour of Beloit

After leaving Scot Forge, we stopped at Corporate Contractors Inc to pick up James Otterstein from the Rock County Development Agency.  James knows everything you would want to know about economic development in Rock County.  Sharing his knowledge with the Leadership Development Academy gave an idea of all the amazing things happening in Beloit.  Our heads were spinning with information before we were dropped off at the Beloit Public Library.  Great job, James!


Visit Beloit and the Beloit Public Library

Visit Beloit provided a delicious lunch for the class, along with materials to highlight Beloit. If you haven’t been to Beloit for awhile, stop by.  Amazing things that are taking place.

During lunch, Nick Dimassis from the Beloit Public Library provided an informative talk.  Collaboration is the name of the game at the library, so big things are happening.


Complex Problem Solving and Project Teams

Working with their Leadership Development Academy project teams, participants put on their thinking caps and looked for ways to help others in Rock County. Board members stopped by to offer suggestions and advice for the projects.   AmyJo Verbeten, from SSM Health, lead our Complex Problem Solving session.  Morphing into something different than originally intended, this session became a planning session for the projects for the year.  As a result, participants were excited about learning ways they could help others.  Especially relevant was hearing ideas about their projects from other participants.  Great discussion during the session.


Top 10 Community Challenges Panel

Finishing the day with the Top 10 Community Challenges Panel helped give a few more class project ideas.  It was refreshing to hear how well Tara Tinder (Stateline Community Foundation), Captain Molland (Beloit Police Department), Ian Haas (Town of Beloit), Ian Hedges (HealthNet) and Emily Pelz (School District of Beloit), work together for our area community.  Keep up the great work!

In conclusion, our busy day turned into a day full of things to reflect on.  A perfect day for a tour of Southern Rock County and an afternoon filled with creative ways to make our communities better.  Keep moving forward, Leadership Development Academy participants; you are doing a fine job!

Linda Ross, Executive Director

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.


The Leadership Development Academy Starts 2016 Strong!

I have always told my boys to choose a job they love and they will never work a day in their lives.  I believe I have found my calling at the Leadership Development Academy of Rock County.  
Beginning our 14th year, the Leadership Development Academy’s class is the largest yet (click here for this year’s class roster), with 28 participants from various places in Rock County. They are bank managers, principals, police officers, an Ironman competitor, accountants and an attorney. You will also find a fire chief, administrative assistants, managers, directors, account executives, a Beloit Bombshell roller derby star and more.

What do they all have in common?  Making Rock County a better place to be and growing in their leadership journey.

Sounds like worthy goals to me!

Going through the program four years ago myself, I found it to be extremely valuable, meeting several in my class who I now call friends.  A high ropes course and team project will bond you like nothing else!


September 2016 class.

Real Colors

The first session met at Blackhawk Technical College’s Central Campus.  Participants were taught Real Colors and Real Colors Teams by Dr Helen Proeber, Associate Dean of Blackhawk Technical College  . Helen is also a Leadership Development Academy board member.  I don’t think I have ever been involved with a class who has been so comfortable with their classmates right off the bat and who laugh so much with each other. They are a lively bunch!

Real Colors is a workshop to help people understand, recognize, accept and value differences in others.  Understanding themselves, participants learn how to communicate and work with others.  Effective and appropriate interactions result when this is happening.

Color categories are used to break individuals into groups:

  • Orange (troubleshooter, spontaneous, witty, competitive, courageous, wild and crazy)
  • Blue (peaceful, sincere, spiritual, caring, sensitive, patient, compassionate and empathetic)
  • Gold (practical, organized, stable, punctual, hard-working, predictable and reliable)
  • Green (complex, curious, independent, intellectual, research-oriented, logical, analytical and calm)

Everyone has a bit of each color, but most people fall into one distinct category.  Heavy on the Orange, with a great deal of Blue and Gold, I found I have very little Green in me. Therefore, through Real Colors, I have grown to appreciate all my Green friends, because I can finally see and understand where they are coming from.  

Project Teams

During the afternoon, participants in the Leadership Development Academy were broken into color groups to form project teams to be used throughout the year.  Thankfully there were five oranges and we were having five project teams.  Strong Oranges tend to butt heads with each other when on the same team.

Several of the participants were two and three-steppers, dominant in more than one color, making them have more  balance when dealing with others.  This made my job easier when selecting participants for each color group. 

Blackhawk Technical College

Our day wasn’t over after Real Colors.  Stephanie Williams, a Leadership Development Academy alum, lead us on a tour of Blackhawk Technical College.  If you have not been through the impressive Central Campus, you need to take a tour.  


Highlighting the tour was the new Health Sciences wing.  The manikins are kind-of creepy, but simulate real people with emergency medical issues.  Most noteworthy is a 3-D dissection table, which was like a modern day Operation Game.  Truly state-of-the-art!  We are fortunate to have such an outstanding technical college in our area.


OWLS (Outdoor Wisconsin Leadership School)

Day two was a real stretch for some of the class…literally.  Excitement and nervousness was shown by the Leadership Development Academy participants, because of the challenge of the Ropes Course at  OWLS on Lake Geneva.  OWLS stands for Outdoor Wisconsin Leadership School . Introductory icebreakers and activities took place in the morning to build trust in each other.  The feature so many were talking about, the high ropes course, took place in the afternoon.

The class of 20 women and 8 men, of various ages, sizes and physical abilities, made the high ropes course more interesting and challenging.  It was fun to stand back and watch everyone working to succeed and cheering like knew each other for years.  

Green members of the teams had to work hard to let others into their bubbles.  Orange members had to quiet themselves and let others help make decisions.  Blue members were in their element with all the personal contact.  Gold members were stable, reliable and hardworking.  As a result, everyone was able to laugh at themselves and with others throughout the day.


Personal Fears to Conquer

Each person had their own personal fears to conquer. One’s person’s challenge was to get up the Firecracker and maneuver around most of the elements on the high ropes course.  Another was to head up the Ewok Bridge and zip-line down.

Picking up on the fact that each person is different, cheering was unique and beautiful, without discussion.  My heart was warm hearing them encouraging and clapping for others.  

The Leadership Development Academy is starting strong this year.  I believe great things will happen in Rock County from this group.  New friendships will be formed, while working on their team projects, developing leadership skills and growing into the individuals they were called to be.  This, my friends, is why I love my job!

Editor’s note: Stacey Bodnar is the Public Relations & Marketing Director for Independent Disability Services and a member of the Leadership Development Academy’s Class of 2015-16. She has kept a blog of her experiences throughout the nine-month program. This is the ninth and final in a series; read all posts.

Session 10: Collaborative Project Presentations


Stacey Bodnar

Stacey Bodnar

The final LDA session for the Class of 2015-2016 was held Friday, May 13 at BMO Harris Bank in downtown Janesville. It was finally time for us all to shine and present our collaborative projects that we have been working on for nearly six months to the class and invited guests.

Since its inception in 2002, each Leadership Development Academy participant has helped to produce a collaborative project that addresses a specific community need. Many of these projects have made Rock County a better place to live, work and play.

The collaborative projects have varied greatly over the years, from helping to brand/market organizations, to raising money for a nonprofit organization’s wishlist of projects, to programs and services that filled gaps not being addressed by existing efforts. Learn more about the various projects and view slide decks from select project presentations.


Editor’s note: Stacey Bodnar is the Public Relations & Marketing Director for Independent Disability Services and a member of the LDA Class of 2015-16. She has agreed to keep a blog of her experiences throughout the nine-month program. This is the eighth in a series; read all posts.

Stacey Bodnar

Stacey Bodnar

Session 9: Poverty & Homelessness


April’s LDA session was by far, for me personally, the most impactful session thus far.

We covered the topic of homelessness in Rock County, heard of the positive growth for Mercy Health Systems, visited the YWCA Care House, and then went on a bus tour to witness the impressive economic growth in Janesville and Milton.

Needless to say, I experienced a gamut of emotions.


Editor’s note: Stacey Bodnar is the Public Relations & Marketing Director for Independent Disability Services and a member of the LDA Class of 2015-16. She has agreed to keep a blog of her experiences throughout the nine-month program. This is the seventh in a series; read all posts.

Session 6: Building blocks for a strong brand and project

Stacey Bodnar

Stacey Bodnar

The February LDA session was quite an inspiring and thrilling day! You could sense a creative vibe upon entering Irontek, a new business incubator in the Ironworks building in Beloit.

The Greater Beloit Chamber of Commerce has made Irontek its new home, and the doors will open officially on Tuesday, March 1. Labeled a business incubator, Irontek will rent out office space for businesses, as well as freelancers. The tables filling most of the first floor are also available for a fee for use on personal projects or to meet other entrepreneurs.

The goal is to help create and grow young businesses by providing them with support, advice, and technical services to enhance the community’s entrepreneurial climate.

Tim Dutter, Executive Director of the Greater Beloit Chamber, spoke to our group over the lunch hour and shared his enthusiasm for the potential to retain businesses in the community and accelerate growth in the area.

Maybe Irontek will provide the space for the next big startup company like Pinterest!