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Kaukauna’s Fox Valley Wood Products celebrates 60 years

The third-generation business designs and constructs standard and custom pallets, boxes, and crates

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July 25, 2023

KAUKAUNA – Over the last 60 years, Fox Valley Wood Products has seen many changes – but one thing President Jeff Van Zeeland said hasn’t changed is its family-centered focus.

The third-generation-owned, Kaukauna-based company designs and constructs standard pallets, boxes and crates, in addition to OEM (original equipment manufacturer) machinery skids.

“We started with one customer in 1963,” he said. “Today, we currently serve more than 260 accounts throughout Wisconsin and the Midwest.”

A bit of history
The company was founded by Jeff’s late grandfather, Norbert Van Zeeland, in true Wisconsin fashion – on a farm. 

“They operated out of a pole shed located on his dairy farm,” Jeff said.

President Jeff Van Zeeland said the company has grown from 12 employees in the mid-1970s to 55-plus employees today. Photo Courtesy of Fox Valley Wood Products

However, Jeff said in addition to dairy farming, Norbert utilized the pole shed for raising game birds – which he sold to the state conservation department and sporting clubs as Fox Valley Pheasant Farm.

When the market shifted and the demand for gaming birds dropped, Jeff said Norbert continued operating his farm but considered leasing some of his pole shed to Badger Northland, a local farm implement manufacturer.

Little did Norbert know, Jeff said, this offer would turn into a budding opportunity to build pallets and crates.

“Badger Northland, an implement dealer, formerly headquartered in the current Basset Mechanical Building, reached out to my grandpa about having his sons – my dad and uncles – build wooden shipping crates for their company,” Jeff said.

The four brothers began building crates, utilizing only hammers and nails.

Eventually, Jeff said, that expanded to pallets and other wood products they supplied to Neenah Foundry.

“Our original name was Fox Valley Crate Company – once we started building pallets, we rebranded ourselves to become Fox Valley Wood Products,” he said.

Jeff said sadly, in 1968, his grandfather passed away unexpectedly at age 55.

A short time later, a fire destroyed the pole shed manufacturing facility – which Jeff said left his dad and uncles – now in their teens and 20s – with a tough decision.

“It was at that time my uncle Dale, Tom and my father, Don, grew the business into a thriving enterprise,” he said. 

A new, 6,000-square-foot manufacturing building was constructed in 1970, which Jeff said helped turn the business into the multi-million-dollar, family-owned operation it is today – which included several building expansions and manufacturing upgrades.

Jeff said he and his cousin Travis started with the business as teenagers. 

When they finished college and the second generation of Van Zeelands began approaching retirement, Jeff said he and Travis began working full-time on the production floor in 1996.

Over time, the pair bought the company from their parents.

“Travis and I are primary shareholders,” Jeff said. “Travis is the vice president/co-owner and serves the company as our chief operating officer.”

Jeff said his father, as well as Travis’, remain an essential and valued part of the company.

“Our fathers, Don and Dale, are minority shareholders and sit on the board of directors,” Jeff said. “Don is semi-retired. Dale remains active in the business and is the director of procurement and continuous improvement.”

Today, Fox Valley Wood Products operates out of a 76,000-square-foot manufacturing facility (W811 State Hwy 96) with more than seven acres of paved yard and storage – thanks to an expansion that was completed in 2022.

Continued growth
Jeff said while Fox Valley Wood Products continues to update its high-volume pallet operation, it also remains focused on niche markets, such as custom crates and other forms of wood packaging.

“We expanded our lumber division to offer wholesale lumber, OSB (oriented strand board) and plywood to manufacturers and general contractors,” he said.

Jeff said continual improvements and the utilization of specialized tools help him and his team think outside the box when it comes to products.

The expansion at Fox Valley Wood Products in Kaukauna was completed in 2022. Photo Courtesy of Fox Valley Wood Products

“We will continue to pursue ways to improve our operational efficiency,” he said.

This, Jeff said, includes specialty software used to aid in optimal pallet design and on-site ISPM (international standards for phytosanitary measures) 15 heat treatment and mold prevention solutions. 

Such innovations, he said, earned the company the Wisconsin Manufacturer of the Year recognition in 2020.

Hand in hand with hard work, Jeff said he attributes much of the company’s successes to its “outstanding customers and employees.”

“We believe in the golden rule – in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you,” he said. “The manner in which we treat our customers, employees, vendors and delivery drivers is paramount.”

Jeff said he recognizes that having dedicated employees is crucial for business operations.

“We’ve evolved from having 12 employees in the mid-1970s to 55-plus employees today,” he said. “Our future success will also be dependent on our ability to continue to attract high character, talented employees.”

Jeff said it is his mission to improve the lives of his employees while further maintaining a strong brand presence.

“We do this by offering them a safe, energetic environment that provides above-average income opportunities,” he said. “We genuinely appreciate everyone’s contributions to this company.”

In addition to ensuring the happiness of its staff, Jeff said the company strives to support the community as well.

“We enjoy connecting with the community through charitable contributions to local nonprofits and sports teams,” he said. “I am proud to serve on the board of One Wrightstown, a local nonprofit established to provide students in the community with resources to meet basic needs, equipping them for future success.”

For more information on Fox Valley Wood Products, visit its website at

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