Wausau, WI – Outstanding area business leaders who helped shape our area’s economy in past years will be honored this spring at the 10th Annual Champions of Business Dinner established by Junior Achievement of Wisconsin, Inc. - Northcentral District. A panel of independent judges selected August Kickbush and Herb & Ervin Kolbe as the 2018 honorees. A dinner on Thursday, May 10 at the Jefferson Street Inn City Grill will celebrate their historic contributions to the Wausau area business community. A special 10th Year Celebration will also take place, recognizing all previous honorees. Tickets to the event are on sale at Junior Achievement of North Central Wisconsin (715.842.1056) or online at www.championsofbusiness.org
August Kickbush will be honored with the “Founder Award” for his business success prior to 1945.
August Kickbush was born in Pomerania, Prussia in 1828, before immigrating to the United States. In 1860, Kickbush and his brother traveled from Milwaukee to the roaring lumber town of Big Bull Falls with a covered wagon of goods for sale. With a small shanty on Clarke Island, Kickbush traded with Native Americans and became the first retailer in the settlement. He expanded his business to wholesaling and warehousing, although his interests went far beyond sales. During this time, the settlement expanded rapidly, in part due to the 702 Germans Kickbush recruited to immigrate to Wausau in 1867. As a result of the rapid growth, a city charter was obtained in 1872 and Kickbush was elected Wausau’s first mayor. August Kickbush was active in securing the Wisconsin Valley Railroad to run its line through Wausau. He also served as president of the First National Bank and the Ruder Brewery until his death in 1901.
Herb & Erwin Kolbe will receive the "Developer Award" for their contribution to the Wausau area economy and community after 1945.
After being born during the hardships of the Great Depression, Herb and Ervin learned the value of hard work while working on the farm, at local sawmills, and doing carpentry work. In 1946, two brothers began a business after identifying a need for windows while working as carpenters. Working out of their mother’s washhouse, Herb & Ervin built window and doorframes, repaired window sash, and made storm windows. Until 1950, Herb & Ervin were the only two employees before expanding to a 2,100 square foot building in Wausau and hiring their brothers Walter and Arnold. By 1978 the company had 250 employees. In the following five years, the company experienced rapid expansion as they broadened sales nationwide. By 2003 the main plant had grown to over 1 million square feet. Despite their growth, the Kolbe brothers never lost sight of their number one asset: the thousands of employees who assisted in building the company and were considered family. Today, over 70 years later, Kolbe Windows & Doors remains a leading manufacturer of luxury windows and doors and one of the largest employers in the City of Wausau.
“It has been an incredible honor to be part of this event for the past 10 years and to be able to take part in telling the stories of these men and women who have made such a tremendous impact on Central Wisconsin. Each of these Champions of Business has left a lasting impact on our regional business economy and serves as an excellent role model for the young people who may become our future business leaders and stewards of our community,” said Bridget Wenman, event chairperson.
“To ensure a prosperous local economy for the next generation, it’s important that we understand the values and lessons that these leaders can teach us about innovation, teamwork, perseverance and grit.” Wenman said. “We want our young people to know that Central Wisconsin has a rich business history and offers tremendous potential for future business ventures.”
Twenty-eight other Champions of Business have been honored in the past ten years. They include D.C. Everest, Bernie Greenheck, John Ullrich, Hans Hagge, Marv Schuette, Ray Goldbach, Walter Alexander, Dick Dudley, E.O. Johnson, Cyrus Yawkey, Bart Kellnhauser, Rick Gering and Art Juedes, Alexander Stewart, Lula Jacob, W.F. McCormick, Walter McIndoe, Ed Creske, Gordon Backer, Daniel Plumer, Robert C. Greenheck, G. Lane Ware, the Fromm Brothers, John Slayton, David Smith, George Ruder, Dwight Davis, and William Sampe. As a special Ten Year Celebration, each of the previous honorees will be highlighted. Information about past winners and the Champions of Business annual event is available at www.championsofbusiness.org.
Title sponsor for The 2018 Champions of Business Dinner is Ruder Ware. Reception sponsor is Associated Bank. Other sponsors include Peoples State Bank, Samuels Group, E.O. Johnson, and Greenheck. All proceeds from the event will go to the local Junior Achievement district office, which provides business and economic education programs to area schools.
More than 11,300 Northcentral District Kindergarten through 12th grade students participate in JA’s experiential learning programs. Critical to the success of JA’s approach is the use of community volunteers who use their own job and life experiences to bring the curriculum to life. Ethics, as it relates to business, has always been taught as part of the Junior Achievement curriculum.
The purpose of Junior Achievement of Wisconsin, Inc. is to inspire and prepare young people to succeed in a global economy. Today, Junior Achievement reaches more than 158,000 Wisconsin students annually and ten million students worldwide.