2020 Business Awards Recipient Spotlights


Fox Cities Performing Arts Center 



The Fox Cities Chamber’s annual Business of the Year award recognizes businesses for outstanding performance, growing and/or increasing jobs, increasing sales, overcoming adversity and community contributions.

Since opening in November 2002, the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center has welcomed more than two million ticketed patrons and become a centerpoint of the Fox Cities. And, while most people are familiar with the Center as a premier venue for performing arts attractions in the Fox Cities, many do not know that it is also a nonprofit arts and cultural education organization.

As a nonprofit organization, the Center’s focus is to serve the community and build meaningful partnerships with local businesses and other nonprofit organizations, ensuring their programs reach all segments of the population and are relevant to the community’s changing needs.

Examples of these projects include working with the Compassion Project to heighten awareness of how compassion is tied to brain development; bringing residency programs like ‘It Gets Better’ to discuss the effects of bullying on LGBTQ+ youth; hosting a week-long residency with Spectrum Dance Theater continuing the conversation of what it’s like to be black in the U.S. and the Fox Cities; and creating a week’s worth of community conversations highlighting the stories of the Fox Cities’ Hmong community members and their experiences.

“These programs, and so many more like them, show how the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center serves as a unique catalyst for engaging our community in meaningful and impactful discussions that make us a more compassionate community,” shared Maria Van Laanen, President of the Fox Cities P.A.C.

Congratulations, Fox Cities Performing Arts Center! We’re proud to have your organization right here in our community!

Learn more about the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center


Fox Cities Sign



The Fox Cities Chamber’s annual Business of the Year award recognizes businesses for outstanding performance, growing and/or increasing jobs, increasing sales, overcoming adversity and community contributions.

Fourteen years ago, Fox Cities Sign was starting out as a sign and lighting repair company with only two employees in a small office room. 

Today, they have expanded to a full-service sign company, designing, producing and installing signage as well as servicing signs and lighting as well as working with Focus on Energy for LED conversion rebates. Their nine employees have moved into a larger facility and they have since acquired Vivid Graphix & Apparel, offering apparel printing and embroidery as well.

Anyone who has worked with Fox Cities Sign can quickly tell you from where this success has stemmed.

“Our customer service skills are top-notch,” shared Sara Greil, Owner of Fox Cities Sign. “We care and are proud of what we do, and we pass that along to our customers.”

But, Fox Cities Sign’s success in the community goes beyond financial growth. In addition to frequently donating signage and apparel to their non-profit customers, they are also members of many local chambers and are involved with the Wisconsin Sign Association. They also extend their community involvement to a younger demographic.

“We are working with local schools and outreach programs for job shadowing activities and internships,” Greil said. “We want to make students aware of the employment possibilities they may not be aware of in our industry.”

Congratulations, Fox Cities Sign! We applaud your business for your continued commitment to success!

Learn more about Fox Cities Sign


Sure-Dry Basement Systems 




The Fox Cities Chamber’s annual Company Innovation award acknowledges organizations who identify opportunities and execute creative-thinking and calculated risk-taking to bring innovation to the marketplace.

In recent years, Sure-Dry Basement Systems has found themselves in a situation many businesses face. Their numbers year-over-year were stagnant, and no matter what they tried, the management team was left scratching their heads, trying to figure out why.

What the Sure-Dry leaders soon realized was that in order to grow as a company, they had to look beyond the numbers – they had to re-establish and commit to their vision and mission. Since their vision was to redefine the customer-contractor experience, Sure-Dry decided they first had to redefine themselves. After months of development, they launched their 1Team Mindset & Culture.

According to Doug Newhouse, Owner/President of Sure-Dry Basement Systems, “The 1Team Mindset & Culture is an innovative, people-first approach to recruitment, training, and retention designed to foster a positive culture in the workplace that allows our employees to naturally thrive. The 1Team approach prioritizes people before results, which generates commitment and passion from our employees to be believers of the Sure-Dry cause.”

Since implementing the 1Team Mindset & Culture, the results have been staggering, both in terms of business growth and employee mindset and retention. From the end of 2018, after the first year 1Team was implemented, to early March 2020, the number of team members employed with Sure-Dry grew 71%, with 1 out of 3 new hires coming from employee referrals. From 2017 to 2019, Sure-Dry’s net income grew an astonishing 1,209%.

Congratulations, Sure-Dry Basement Systems! You undoubtedly are a leader of company innovation in the Fox Cities!

Learn more about Sure-Dry Basement Systems


Appleton International Airport




The Fox Cities Chamber’s annual Company Innovation award acknowledges organizations who identify opportunities and execute creative-thinking and calculated risk-taking to bring innovation to the marketplace.

According to Abe Weber, Airport Director at Appleton International Airport’s (ATW), “The ATW innovation approach always begins and ends with a single question: How can we better deliver our mission of connecting our community to the world? The development, enhancement and full integration of our mission into our everyday activities, including our innovation process, has kept us focused in the right areas.”

A prime example of Appleton International Airport’s commitment to this idea is proven in their ongoing quest to show airlines the potential of Fox Cities’ customers who would fly local if given the chance. Since 2015, ATW has done several “deep dives” into varied data sources surrounding Fox Cities residents and their travel and migration habits. As a result, they have established new routes to Tampa/St. Pete, Ft. Myers/Punta Gorda, and Nashville with Allegiant, Denver, Colorado through United Airlines, and most recently, Charlotte, North Carolina on American Airlines.

Beyond connecting Fox Cities residents to other parts of the world, they have also made a concerted effort to connect with their own employees. In 2016, ATW held listening sessions with their employees in an effort to develop a common set of core values. Their work resulted in an airport-wide agreement on the following shared values: accountability, seek the ‘Total Win,’ customers first, innovate and grow, and passion and fun.

“Since ATW only has 22 direct employees,” Weber shared, “it’s important that we engage all of these human resources to help us strategically manage, effectively innovate, and provide a superior customer experience.”

Congratulations, Appleton International Airport! Your commitment to innovation and connecting the Fox Cities to great places around the world is inspiring!

Learn more about Appleton International Airport


Community First Credit Union



The Corporate Citizen Leadership award from the Fox Cities Chamber annually recognizes organizations who embody a philosophy of giving and community involvement, and have made significant differences in the health and well-being of the Fox Cities. The award encourages and supports corporate social responsibility and community leadership.

Beyond simply cutting a check, Community First Credit Union values true partnerships with organizations they support.

In 2019, Community First partnered with employees and members to contribute over $1.7-million in financial support to 165 charitable causes and civic needs throughout the communities they serve. Of this, $1.47-million benefitted those here in our community, for those who live or work in the Fox Cities. An additional $1.7-million has been provided through in-kind donations throughout the region as well.

While financial literacy is a top priority of Community First, they intentionally give across a variety of interest areas including arts/culture, health and wellness, civic/community engagement, basic needs, education and the environment.

In partnership with their employees and members, they have been providing high levels of support in the communities they serve every year. One of their key performance indicators is community involvement with 73% of employees volunteering for at least one hour in 2019 and a total of 17,670 hours volunteered.

“Our leadership position in the community is recognized by non-profit organizations, our

members and the community at large,” shared Amanda Secor, Chief of Staff at Community First Credit Union. “New employees often cite our community engagement and support as a reason they want to join our organization.”

Community First continues to be guided by their “We’ll Find A Way” brand promise and by Meraki, a Greek-origin word meaning “to do something with heart, soul, love and creativity and to leave something of yourself in your work.” They believe that their community support is more impactful when it goes beyond financial support and engages the hearts and minds of their team and members.

Congratulations, Community First Credit Union! Thank you for your commitment to supporting countless organizations in our community!

Learn more about Community First Credit Union


Wisconsin Veterans Village Association



The Fox Cities Chamber’s annual Corporate Citizen Leadership award recognizes organizations who have a philosophy of giving and community involvement and have made significant differences in the health and well-being of the Fox Cities.

Serving veterans in need of affordable housing throughout the New North region, the Wisconsin Veterans Village (WisVVA) organization was officially formed just over two years ago by a number of regional leaders, many of whom are veterans themselves.

One of the New North co-founders, Dr. Tom Wiltzius, a Vietnam War and Persian Gulf War veteran, has co-led the founding of the Veterans Village.

“Many veterans find themselves in acute need of affordable housing due to a life event,” shared Wiltzius. “In the military, all of a person’s basic needs are met…food, housing and medical support. As veterans transition back to civilian life, they must meet their own basic needs and access to affordable housing is key to a successful transition.”

“Because affordable housing is in short supply throughout the New North and because many veterans may leave the military with other life challenges such as PTSD, MST, or disabling injuries among them, affordable housing is essential to a healthier transition,” according to Keith Scott, President of the Veterans Village Board and Associated Bank executive.

Currently, the Wisconsin Veterans Village Association is collaborating with the Outagamie Housing Authority to rehab 48 existing apartments brought about by a successful Phase One capital campaign. WisVVA plans to build an additional 36 apartments through a future fundraising. If anyone wishes to honor a veteran in their family or organization with a donation, Wiltzius can be contacted at Tom@WiltziusAssociates.com.

Congratulations, Wisconsin Veterans Village Association, and thank you for all that you do to serve our veterans!

Learn more about Wisconsin Veterans Village Association


Little Critter Pediatric Dentistry



The Rising Star award from the Fox Cities Chamber annually recognizes a relatively new “up-and-coming” small business that embodies a unique blend of vision, energy, perseverance and skill. The award is distributed to a venture who has been in business less than five years and has had a strong start with the potential for growing into a prosperous enterprise in the future.

Established in October 2018, Little Critter Pediatric Dentistry was started in an effort to fulfill a need for pediatric dentistry in the Fox Cities. The practice began with three employees – and is hopeful to grow as their schedule fills in the near future. (We can’t forget to mention their Flemish giant rabbit, Gus Gus, who hops between Dr. Keta’s office and the waiting room to greet patients.)

Thinking back to their first day of practice, the team at Little Critter saw three patients. Word of their unique patient philosophy, conservative dental techniques and giant bunny quickly spread and they now see upwards of 20 patients daily. They have experienced an increase in production year over year – and are on the trajectory to continue growth through 2020.

Patients at Little Critter have come to not only expect a standard dental appointment but an overall experience. They see children for their first visit (between the ages of one and two-years old) while focusing on educating parents on proper diet and oral hygiene techniques and habits. Their treatment philosophy focuses on prevention and comprehensive, conservative dental care with specialty training.

“We go above and beyond your typical dental visit,” shared Dr. Michaella (Keta) Heitzler, pediatric dentist and practice owner. “Our team has vibrancy, competency and kindness. Our goal is not only to provide exceptional dental needs to your kids but to also get to know you.”

Congratulations, Little Critter Pediatric Dentistry! We applaud your business success and look forward to your prosperous future!

Learn more about Little Critter Pediatric Dentistry


Patti Purcell, Writing by Design 



The Fox Cities Chamber Entrepreneur of the Year award annually recognizes an individual who, through their own risk and initiative, has established a thriving and successful business.

Upon leaving a decade-long career in corporate marketing and communications at Kimberly-Clark, Patti Purcell identified a need for concept writing and the story of Writing by Design began.

Founded in 2006, Writing by Design has grown through client contacts, referrals and networking for both concept writing services and general marketing communications projects, which continues to grow today.

The entrepreneurial mindset is present each day at Writing by Design. Purcell began adding employees in 2015, as demand for work increased and services needed to be replicated. But, it didn’t stop there. She has also created proprietary tools in order to sell concept writing projects, introduced new concept writing services (including a concept writing "college" for Fortune 500 Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) companies to hire them in order to train their staff on how to write concepts like a pro), and concept review tools which allow their team to review the writing done in-house by CPG companies. The small team at Writing by Design continues to operate like a world-class writing agency and has served a variety of clients from local clients to Sabra Foods, S.C. Johnson, M&M Mars, Del Monte Foods and even Almarai, a $26 billion dairy company in Saudi Arabia.

Purcell’s drive continues to shine beyond her leadership at the office. Her involvement through non-profit work has played a significant focus on her growth as well including the development and launch of Learn2FishWithUs, St. Margaret Mary Parish in Neenah, St. Mary Catholic Schools, and as a Board Member of the Ladies Professional Golf Association of Amateurs in the Fox Cities/Green Bay.

“It’s not easy starting up a company,” shared Purcell. “I've learned so much over the past 13 years of growing this company, and have done things I never even imagined I would or could do, all because I decided to take a risk one day.”

Congratulations, Patti Purcell! We applaud your success and look forward to watching your story unfold.

Learn more about Writing by Design