KAUKAUNA - Fox Valley Wood Products has progressed over the last five decades from constructing each crate and pallet by hand to celebrating the recent addition of 16,000 square feet for a lumber re-manufacturing facility.
The expansion will help the third-generation company diversify its lumber source and streamline its production capabilities, said partner Jeff Van Zeeland. Founded in 1963, Fox Valley Wood Products provides wooden pallets, crates and specialty wood boxes throughout Wisconsin and Chicago.
"In the past, we would purchase the raw lumber and send it in to a partner in Pound, Wisconsin," Van Zeeland said. "With the demands customers are placing on us to be 'just in time' having the re-manufacturing facility on site offers us more flexibility. We're going to start off slow, and we plan on being full production in that facility in January."
Although most of the handful of positions added by the expansion have been filled, it has been tough to find qualified candidates in the past.
"The biggest challenge is always to find people who have a strong work ethic, strong character, and work experience," Van Zeeland said. "And in our business, while education is always a good thing, it's not absolutely necessary for a lot of the things we do."
Given the quick turnaround Fox Valley Wood Products offers, the company needs people who are highly motivated, said Aaron Grahek, assembly supervisor and customer service specialist.
"It's a real fast-paced environment here, but we take the time to ensure the product is done accurately for the customer," he said. "We try to be as fast as possible but maintain a high-quality product as well."
Van Zeeland works with many original equipment manufacturers and machine shops in northeastern Wisconsin, that struggle to find qualified workers. Though the NEW Manufacturing Alliance, which facilitates partnerships between industry and education, succeeds in promoting the depth of job opportunities in the area, improvement is needed from other sectors, Van Zeeland said.
"It seems everybody is pushed to a four-year degree," he said. "But really, there's a lot of opportunity out there in the trades, and it would be good for our educators to also promote that for our young people. That would be a huge help to the business climate here in northeastern Wisconsin."