Chamber Recognition Banquet

The Oconto Area Chamber of Commerce held its 5th Recognition Banquet on April 23, at Crivello’s. This recognition occurs every other year. The recipient of the “Ed Zahn Volunteer of the Year Award 2019 is Don Nerenhausen. This award is named after Ed Zahn who hosted the Chamber Welcome Center for many, many year. The criterion for the Volunteer award includes the accomplishments of an individual who has demonstrated a leadership role in one or several organizations and has shown a commitment to serve the well being of others. The conduct of the individual must be above reproach in regards to quality and service. He must project a positive community image. Don graduated from Oconto High School in 1946 and has lived in Oconto most of his life. He has seen many changes as he watched Oconto grow. He is the Treasurer of the Oconto Chamber & Oconto Kiwanis Club and past President of the Kiwanis Club and Oconto Lions Club and past Treasurer of the Oconto Industrial Fund. Don is sponsoring the mural on the new wing of Farnsworth Library which could be completed sometime this year. As a member of the American Legion Post #7, Don suggested that the army tank formerly housed at the Oconto Golf Course be restored. It is now at the Beyer Home Museum. The American Legion is celebrating its 100th anniversary on November 10th of this year and Don is working on a project to design and construct a County Veterans Memorial which will go in front of the army tank. Don was the past Mayor of Oconto from 2006-2010. Don also introduced the “Beer, Wine & Cheese Tasting” event which the Oconto Hospital Foundation is sponsoring on April 27th. Both Don & his wife Irene have been very involved in the 1st American Lutheran Church. Don was involved in the church council and membership drives, and also secretary, treasurer and president of the congregation. The current project Don is involved in is chairman of the “Grow Oconto” committee which is designing and constructing a pedestrian bridge from Bond Park to Holtwood Campground. Don stated: “All I can say is I did my best, with a lot of help from others to make Oconto a better place to live, and I enjoyed every minute of doing it.” Past recipients of the Volunteer Award include: Gary Zahn, 2011; Jeremy Wusterbarth, 2013; Karl Ballestad, 2015; and Janine Hornblad, 2017. The Business of the Year is Unlimited Services. This award is for the accomplishments of a business as a whole and not necessarily for an individual person. Participation in community events or programs that support or improve the City of Oconto and its surrounding area are the important criteria. US has its main plant in the Industrial Park in Oconto and another plant in Guaymas, Mexico and a third plant which opened in 2019 in Hermosillo, Mexico. Rod Drummond is the president of US. Their primary product is a custom made wire harness for off-road equipment, fire & emergency vehicles and heavy duty trucks for the military and defense as well as industrial and telecom devices. An important reason for choosing this manufacturer is the philosophy that it instills in its employees that it is essential to give back to the community and area residents. The employees contribute on a quarterly basis to many organizations such as Bread by the Bay, Oconto Area Humane Society, Elysia Mireles, the 6th grader who passed away recently from cancer, a family in Gillett whose house burned, local school districts and our overseas troops. There are 266 employees currently working on 2 shifts. The staff recently dressed in blue to support Autism Awareness Day on April 2nd. At Christmas time each employee receives $25 in Chamber Bucks which are gift certificates that can be redeemed right here in our community. Second year employees also receive a $25 certificate. They are currently advertising for 2 juniors or seniors to job shadow this summer with the Quality Team, Manufacturing Engineering or Design Engineering for two weeks with each department and then work the remainder of the summer with the department they are interested in pursuing further. Employees nearing retirement can be involved in a program that keeps them working but only 3 days a week. They then have 4 days off but continue to be active in the work environment. The US Team has participated in the Chamber Christmas parade, “Footsteps 4 Madysn” and organized their own run/walk for the Oconto Hospital in 2012-2013. Many employees enjoy working at US due to the continuing education policy, the flexibility offered and the balance that one can maintain between home, work and life. Past recipients of the “Business of the Year” include: Thompson’s County Market, 2011; Matravers Hardware, 2013; Wagner Shell, 2015; and Stephenson National Bank & Trust, 2017. Senator Dave Hansen and Mayor Lloyd Heier commended the recipients on their service and commitment to our City.