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Company relocation to Green Bay is ‘already paying dividends’

Aramid Technologies recently moved operations from Phoenix to TitletownTech’s Green Bay location

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July 1, 2024

GREEN BAY – Aramid Technologies, a company that helps businesses receive, manage, create and share certifications and other critical documentation within supply chains, recently relocated its operations to Green Bay – a move that took them from the deserts of Arizona to the shadows of Lambeau Field.

“People have asked us, ‘why would you move from Phoenix to Green Bay’ – not necessarily from a lifestyle perspective but from a climate perspective,” Lonni Kieffer said.

Kieffer co-owns the software development company with business partner and husband, Lyndon Lattie – both of whom recently moved to Northeast Wisconsin.

“People also gave us pause because we were leaving this technology hub in Phoenix, and (coming) to Green Bay where there are maybe fewer opportunities via networking with technology companies,” she said.

However, Kieffer said they are finding quite the opposite to be true – “it’s been wonderful.”

“Being a part of the (Green Bay) ecosystem (in terms of technology) is huge for us – it already has become that for us,” she said. “We have an opportunity to stand out in Green Bay. In Phoenix, even though we were part of many start-up cohorts, we were among many. In Green Bay, we can make a place for ourselves and get more visibility.”

Lattie said with Phoenix being near California, there were opportunities for start-ups, but that came with a “catch.”

Once a start-up gets going in that region, there aren’t many resources available to support success.

“That was partially the reason we came to Green Bay,” he said. “Strengthening our relationship with TitletownTech and the community has already paid off in the short time we’ve been here.”

Though the couple spent nearly two decades in Arizona, they have connections to the Midwest.

Kieffer grew up in the Fox Valley and went to Kimberly High School, while Lattie grew up in Flint, Michigan.

“You talk about work/life balance, and I love being back in this area,” Kieffer said. “Having access to our people has helped fill a gap we both had – we were a bit isolated in Arizona for the 17 years we were there. The summers in Phoenix are getting hotter, and the water issue is a concern. It’s been a nice transition to Green Bay. We love the green and water in this area – I’m at peace being back here.”

Lattie said it wasn’t only his and Kieffer’s decision to move to Green Bay – “it was a family and business decision.”

“We had to get our family and coworkers on board, too,” he said. “Like many tech companies, we have folks on the East and West Coast – and South America. This is a hard business, but when you add things like water, trees and family to your ecosystem, it puts you more at peace – it all plays into it. It already feels good to be here. Not that Phoenix wasn’t great, but I feel more at home in Green Bay than I did in the 17 years out west.”

Lonni Kieffer and Lyndon Lattie recently moved from Phoenix to TitletownTech’s location in Green Bay. Submitted Photo

Being part of the Central Time Zone, Lattie said, has also been a welcome change with the move.

“It’s made scheduling morning meetings much easier,” he laughed. “We have customers all over. When we were in Phoenix, we were robbed of basically three hours in the mornings with our East Coast customers – it’s great to have that time back.”

Northeast Wisconsin being one of the most manufacturing-dense areas in the country, Kieffer said, also bodes well for Aramid – providing an opportunity “to tap into area manufacturing companies.”

“We recently scheduled a visit with Packer Fastener in Green Bay,” she said. “That’s one of our biggest focuses – tapping into manufacturing. It’s much better to do things in person when we can – so much more gets done face to face.”

More on Aramid

Getting its start in March 2021, Lattie said Aramid “helps companies exchange (paper) documentation for products and parts that have traceability.”

“Take the airline industry as an example,” he said. “Every part that goes into an aircraft has to have its ‘birth certificate’ available in case something happens or is a part of the manufacturing process. (Companies) can’t put this part on the plane until (they) know it’s documented as the correct part.”

Taking into account the entire lifespan of a plane – which can be 40 years – Lattie said safety, quality issues and tracking the aircraft have to be recorded. 

“That record has to be established and maintained for the entire life of that aircraft,” he said. 

Lattie said the aircraft industry had never had a great way of exchanging or keeping track of that documentation from company to company – that’s where Aramid can help.

Aramid, he said, uses SmartCert – a secure cloud-based network that simplifies every aspect of cert management – to help solve that problem.

“We originally wanted to get the ‘paper out of the box’ – that’s how (the concept) was originally delivered,” Lattie said. “Make the product, take the documentation and shove it in the box and ship it to the customer.”

Though that’s the way things worked in the past, Lattie said that method “was fraught with peril because that paper could get lost in receiving.”

“At Aramid, we came up with a way to do this digitally,” he said. “We took the paper out of the box, but we’ve also evolved to help increase the visibility of that documentation among teams within a company and among your vendors and customers. We’ve created this network called the ‘SmartCert Network’ where we brought together all the companies putting this product into the market.”

Lattie said Aramid also increased the ability to add traceability to the process.

“If you have a part, you’re not just one company making a part and sending it to another company,” he said. “There might be 15 potential companies touching that part – they all have their part of documentation traceability, which makes it easier to add and build on that information – SmartCert helps there.”

Lattie said the last aspect of what Aramid provides is security.

“Shoving a piece of paper into a box is not too secure,” he said. “But, when you do it on the cloud and use the tools available to cloud security, you create a better way to keep the documentation in the hands of the folks who are supposed to have it and out the hands of the people who aren’t supposed to have it.”

Kieffer said Aramid is focused on staying diligent and lean.

“With the challenges of tech companies and start-up life these past couple of years, we’ve been committed to creating self-service tools for the company,” she said. “Lyndon and I wear multiple hats to get us to the next level. We feel we’ve been good stewards with our original investment.”

The company, Lattie said, has grown substantially since its inception.

“We have more than 1,500 companies registered on the platform,” he said. “When you receive SmartCert, you create an account – that’s what we call a starter account, (then businesses can expand their usage from there). I’d say we have about 60 companies that are fully immersed in the platform. They’re not just receiving, but they are creating, sharing, getting their vendor base on the platform and using AI tools. We have accounts all over the world – we’ll be heading to Germany in September.”  

How it all started

Aramid, Lattie said, wasn’t an idea created overnight, but rather inspired by years of personal experience. 

“I worked in the aircraft supply chain for almost my entire career – more than 20 years,” he said. “The pain of having my customers lose that documentation and the pain of the company not getting paid because the documentation wasn’t there (was frustrating) – it had to be complete to get that check.”

Kieffer said they weren’t alone in their frustrations.

“(Other companies) wanted to help us bring our idea to life,” she said. “They were our early adopters and helped us find the next steps of our growth.”

Kieffer said Aramid’s growth has been an “evolution.”

Lonni Kieffer, middle, speaks with listeners at the International Fastener Expo – North America’s most extensive business-to-business trade show for all types of fasteners, machinery and tooling and other industrial needs. Submitted Photo

“If you’re helping a company digitize a paper-based process, that change management is daunting – especially when you tie that into the labor shortage many companies are dealing with,” she said. “We’ve worked hard to help define and ease the steps internally – where can we automate, how can we apply AI and reduce keystrokes? It’s (about) how can we help customers get more time back in their day?”

TitletownTech’s backing

As Aramid’s platform continued to grow, Lattie said, “we needed more resources.”

“We did a raise, and through that process, we were introduced to TitletownTech through some of our ties through Chicago,” he said. “We were also lucky to have Lonni help make the Wisconsin connection. We qualified in the supply chain sector as well. Lonni has a connection with Craig Dickman (one of TitletownTech’s managing partners). We introduced our SmartCert platform, and TitletownTech took us up on that opportunity.”

Lattie said when Dickman put the bug in his ear about relocating to Wisconsin, he didn’t think too much about it at the time.

“He said, ‘that’s a great place for your company,’” he said. “Over those two years, we thought, ‘that’s actually a good idea.’ As it turned out, it was a great idea.”

Dickman, a University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh graduate like Kieffer, said he’s “excited to have Aramid here” in Green Bay.

“It is a company doing valuable work in an important industry,” he said. “It’s fun to think about – Aramid is the sixth company that has relocated to Wisconsin as a result of TitletownTech’s involvement. In addition to Aramid, we’ve had two companies move from Los Angeles, one from Denver, one from New York City and a founder from Alabama.”

Dickman said the team at TitletownTech strives to create an ecosystem where people and companies believe if they come here, “they’ll have a better chance to succeed.”

“It’s important to get companies close to the market of who they’ll be working with,” he said. “If you think of the Wisconsin economy, manufacturing and supply chain are strong areas here, as are agriculture, water and the environment. Many times for a start-up company, it’s important for them to connect to their potential market as fast as possible and do so in a trusted environment (like TitletownTech) where they get real feedback.”

Dickman said though TitletownTech’s focus from the beginning has been to “have a bias for Wisconsin,” the venture capital firm didn’t want to “have that as a limiter” either.

“We will invest in a company, and we have invested in many companies around the U.S., but we’ve never said to a company like Aramid, ‘we’ll invest in you, but you have to move to Green Bay.’” he said. “We look at what the company is doing, what their team looks like and the problem they’re solving. If a company thinks it can better succeed as a business by being here, that’s what we encourage.”

That was the case, Dickman said, with Aramid, which was located in Phoenix at the time of the initial investment.

He said it’s easy to get lost in the bigger metropolitan markets.

“A company like Aramid might get lost in those bigger markets, but in Green Bay, they can stand out,” he said.

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