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Recognizing one of the top industries in the state

Two Northeast WI manufacturing companies take home MOTY Awards

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March 20, 2024

FOX VALLEY — According to Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), the manufacturing industry produced more than $68 billion in total output in 2021 — making up nearly 20% of the state’s total gross domestic product.

With 9,200 manufacturing companies in Wisconsin, acknowledging the work they do is important to the WMC.

Hence why every year the organization hosts the Manufacturer of the Year (MOTY) Awards — an event designed to recognize top manufacturing companies throughout the state.

At the 35th annual MOTY Awards last month, two Northeast Wisconsin manufacturing companies won two out of the four grand awards: Muza Sheet Metal Company in Oshkosh won the medium category, and Menasha Corp. in Neenah won the mega category.

To be eligible for the medium category at the MOTY Awards, the company must have less than 200 employees.

“We had to go through and submit all of our information about our company, down to financial standings (and) what we do in the community,” Muza Sheet Metal President Sam Blanck said.

Once the company information is reviewed and follow-up questions are answered, an independent panel of judges selects the year’s winners.

The selection process was the same for Menasha Corp. — though to be eligible for the Mega Category, the company had to have 500 or more employees.

Muza Sheet Metal Company
Muza Sheet Metal is a sheet metal contractor in Oshkosh that has worked on a variety of local projects, such as Hinterland Brewing, Masters Gallery Foods and Bohemian Park Apartments.

“We do contracting, but we also do manufacturing, so we’re a unique company,” Blanck said.

For the company to win the medium category at the MOTY Awards, Blanck said it all comes down to the company’s six values:

Recognition of excellenceValidation of effortEnhanced reputationEmployee motivationCommunity engagementLegacy of success
“Our mission is to provide superior service, craftsmanship and timeless innovation solutions for our clients,” he said. “So, going back to those six things and saying, ‘okay, (with) winning Manufacturer of the Year — how do we tie all those things back together?'”

For recognition of excellence, Blanck said winning the award signifies that “our company has been committing to excellence in manufacturing.”

The award, Blanck said, also validates the hard work and dedication of the Muza team.

“(We’re) consistently delivering high-quality products and services — reinforcing the value of our brands: family, growth and strength,” he said.

Being one of the four manufacturers selected for the recognition this year, he said, also helps enhance the company’s reputation, “both within the industry and among your customers.”

“(It) reinforces customers’ assurance and trust in your brand,” he said.

When it comes to employee motivation, Blanck said it’s “always tough,” but being named Manufacturer of the Year obviously boosts employee morale.

And if it wasn’t for the team, he said, Muza wouldn’t be where it is today.

“(The award) validates their contributions to the company’s success and proposes a supportive, everyday better life for people at Muza,” he said. “The next morning (after winning the award), we sent out an email to our entire team and said, ‘hey, we’re going to shut this thing down at noon. We have won this great award, we want to celebrate with everybody.’ We went to a local place and- celebrated as a team. That, to us, is employee motivation.”

Community engagement is something Blanck said the Muza team has been working on doing more of.

“We know we’re industry leaders, so the recognition also reflects positively on our engagement with the community, showcasing our commitment to giving back and supporting the areas (in which) we operate,” he said.

But most importantly, Blanck said, winning the award helps “build a legacy of success for our company.”

“We’re almost going on 100 years,” he said. “I’m a spoke in the wheel here. There have been plenty of people before me: Chuck Schuster, Tom Schuster, Leo Muza — people in our company history who started this thing, and we’re continuing to push it forward.”

Overall, Blanck said Muza’s designation as the medium category award winner shows that “we’re on the right track.”

“That means all the things that internally we’re doing and pushing things forward, and trying to get a clear message to what we do to our customers and our partners — it’s working,” he said.

Blanck said as he looks toward Muza’s future, there are new products in the works that will come out this summer through the fall.

“Moving forward, we’re going to be doubling down on our manufacturing and becoming more of a manufacturer of some of the architectural products we are currently working with,” he said.

Menasha Corp.
Menasha Corp. specializes in the production of retail merchandising packaging and displays, corrugated packaging and shipping containers as well as pack-out and fulfillment services.

Chris Drees, president/CEO of Menasha Corp., said the company winning the mega category award — the largest of the MOTY Awards — was “truly awesome.”

“We’re the third oldest company in the State (of Wisconsin), believe it or not,” he said. “And now, (we are) a seventh generation, all family-owned business. It’s a testament to the longevity and the great people and shareholders we have here at Menasha Corporation.”

Menasha Corp. in Neenah was the mega category recipient of the Manufacturer of the Year Awards, a perfect way, Chris Drees said, to celebrate the company’s 175th anniversary. Photo Courtesy of Menasha Corp.

On top of the company’s long-standing ties in the state, Drees said many different aspects within Menasha Corp. helped the company win the award — one of them being its continued investment in technology and innovation.

“We recently put in a new digital press, some of the latest technology, in our Hartford facility in southern Wisconsin,” he said.
Another facet to the manufacturing company’s core, Drees said, is sustainability.

“All of our products — virtually all of them — are core materials and recyclable,” he said. “And we use a lot of recycled material in the process. So, from a sustainability aspect, I think the company does a great job.”

With safety being integral in the manufacturing industry, Drees said Menasha Corp. is in the “top tier above all companies in the field as it relates to safety,” which he said also sets the company apart from others.

And, lastly, Drees said it all comes down to the people.

“Our people made the difference,” he said. “From everything we do from a training standpoint to the development of our people. I think that’s where Menasha (Corp.) differentiates itself.”

Not only is the mega category win important to the folks working at Menasha Corp., but Drees said it’s also important to those in the Fox Valley community.

“There are a lot of great companies in the State of Wisconsin, without a doubt,” he said. “To be selected as the Manufacturer of the Year, and being right in the Fox Valley — it’s incredible. It’s all that more rewarding, not only for the employees of the company but for all the shareholders — truly a great honor.”

And, when Menasha Corp. wins, Drees said, the entire community wins.

As the company continues to grow and push forward, he said, that means its philanthropic arm does as well — a direct benefit to the community.

“A portion of the profits of the company is donated back to local charities in the community through the Menasha Corporation Foundation,” he said. “There has been a lot of work within the companies we operate in to give back.”

As Drees reflects on Menasha’s MOTY Award, he said it couldn’t have come at a better time, as the company celebrates a milestone anniversary.

“We’re celebrating our 175th anniversary this year,” he said. “What an accomplishment, what an award, and it’s great it ties right into our 175th.”

Looking to the next 175 years of business, Drees said Menasha Corp. doesn’t plan to “rest on our laurels.”

“The company- constantly changes, constantly innovates, and we’re looking forward to paving the way for the next 175 years,” he said.

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