Former Wisconsin Oven vice-president, Bruce Champion (center) cuts the ribbon on the company’s new plant on Young Street in East Troy. The plant was named after Champion because of his many contributions over his years of service. Wisconsin Oven/TPS President and CEO Dave Strand stands to the left of Champion. (Tracy Ouellette photo)

Local, regional and state leaders attend ribbon cutting, open house

By Tracy Ouellette

SLN Staff

East Troy’s Wisconsin Oven Corp., and its parent company Thermal Product Solutions, opened its new plant Nov. 3 and honored longtime employee Bruce Champion by naming the building after him.

The open house and ribbon-cutting ceremony in the Champion Plant included company officials, employees, local, regional, state leaders and the public.

According to a press release from TPS, the new facility, at 2056 Young St. in East Troy, will accommodate the company’s Blue M laboratory oven product line and provide additional manufacturing space for their expanding operations. The company will be investing $1.5 million in equipment and renovation work at the building.

TPS President/CEO Dave Strand said Friday’s opening was a testament to the East Troy community and its commitment to Wisconsin Oven over the years.

“I can’t thank you enough for your support,” Strand said to the gathered guests. “

The company expects to hire 80 to 90 new full-time technical employees, who will join Wisconsin Oven’s existing staff of 137 at the company’s campus in East Troy. Company executives selected the location after considering other sites throughout the country.

“This 130,000-square-foot facility will soon see massive renovations and production, which will result in more employment throughout the region,” Strand said.

At Friday’s ceremony, Strand announced that the new building would be named for Bruce Champion, a former vice-president of operations for Wisconsin Oven, who played a key role in the company’s success.

“He is absolutely one of the best human beings I’ve ever met,” Strand said.

Wisconsin Oven Executive Vice-President Jeff Kent and Sales Manager Mike Grande both recounted stories of meeting and working with Champion over the years and said Champion’s guidance and support influenced them greatly.

Champion, in turn, credited Strand, Kent and Grande, among others, in helping him “change the culture of the company,” which was what he was hired to do.

“Dave was the gold standard of what we wanted as employees and Dave said we needed to hire better quality people and pay them more,” Champion said. “Hiring a number of Dave’s friends changed the culture of the company.”

Among those attending the ribbon-cutting were state Sen. Steve Nass; state Rep. Tyler August; Lisa Mauer, chairman of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors; Dave Bertl, Walworth County administrator; Derek D’Auria, executive director of Walworth County Economic Development Alliance; and Scott Seager, village president of East Troy.

“I simply wanted to say thank you for what they’ve done with keeping this business in the community,” Seager said. “And that we’re all here for you to make it a little easier, so if there’s anything we can do to help, let us know.”

“Walworth County is so grateful that Wisconsin Oven chose to make a significant investment in the people of East Troy,” D’Auria said. “The company had other choices, but it chose to expand here. This decision is a testament to the area and all that it has to offer. An expansion like this is great for morale and benefits many facets of the community, and is yet another example of the strength of manufacturing in Walworth County.”

According to TPS, to help secure the project in Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation is providing the company with up to $500,000 in performance-based Business Development Tax Credits through 2020. The actual amount of credits awarded will be contingent upon the number of jobs created and the level of capital investment during that time.

“On behalf of the state of Wisconsin, I congratulate Wisconsin Oven and TPS on this expansion project, and applaud the company for its continued commitment to the state and Walworth County,” Mauer said. “WEDC is proud to have played a role in making this expansion a reality.”

Strand said they had a lot of work ahead of them to get the plant up and running, but was confident they could meet the challenge because they were all “champions.”

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