This is an excerpt from a column posted at BizOpinion.
ASHLAND – C.G. Bretting Manufacturing has been bending metal on the shores of Lake Superior since 1890, but its global footprint in the paper converting industry defines the company’s 21st century approach to innovation.
Entrepreneurs such as Bruce Bowers, Mirka Nelson and Mark Snow all represent new companies – or, in some cases, no company at all – but they’re guided by the same innovative spirit that drives the big boys.
Welcome to the new North Woods, where efforts to redefine the economy involve companies large and small, as well as a broader community that understands the need to secure the region’s long-term prosperity.
For many people in Wisconsin, the North Woods have become a frozen banana republic, with eco-terrorists and paramilitary guards roaming the forests of the Gogebic Iron Range within a half hour’s drive of Ashland.
For those who live there, however, those headlines are a far cry from everyday life. Although residents are divided over the mine, they’re also determined that the controversy surrounding it cannot become the North Woods’ defining image.
That was evident during a recent visit to Ashland, where executives at family-owned firms such as Bretting, entrepreneurs who are just starting businesses, and leaders in the political and economic development communities seem aligned in their vision for the future.
“We are all very active and passionate about making our community a better place,” read a welcome letter to the Wisconsin Technology Council board of directors from nine industry, education and local government leaders.