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Did anyone in southeastern Wisconsin have a better year than the Milwaukee Bucks? We think not. The Bucks captured their first NBA championship in 50 years, and massive crowds flocked to downtown Milwaukee – not just to attend Bucks playoff games, but also to gather around Fiserv Forum just to be part of the excitement.
The mass of humanity in the Deer District during the Bucks’ title run was an incredible sight, a vision of a community coming together and eager to celebrate after a brutal 2020, when the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic led to illness, death, isolation, an economic shutdown, cancellation of numerous events and activities, and the loss of what was supposed to be a special year for Milwaukee and southeastern Wisconsin as the Democratic National Convention was held virtually and the Ryder Cup was postponed.
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues, vaccines helped the region begin to recover and move forward in 2021. After playing games with no fans or only small crowds in the stands, the Bucks welcomed full-capacity crowds during the playoffs. An enormously successful Ryder Cup was held at Whistling Straits in September. Several major real estate developments moved forward, including the unique Ascent project in Milwaukee. Some area companies, including Generac, experienced significant growth during the year. And efforts to improve the region’s startup and venture capital scene showed some signs of progress.
With all of that in mind, BizTimes Milwaukee presents its ninth annual year in review by recognizing our staff’s picks for southeastern Wisconsin’s corporation, CEO, small business, family-owned business and community leader of the year.
This year’s honorees are the Milwaukee Bucks, for their championship victory and the massive crowds they brought to their Deer District development; Generac CEO Aaron Jadgfeld, who is leading the company through significant growth, including several acquisitions and an additional office location in Pewaukee; New Land Enterprises, which is building new apartment developments, including Ascent, the tallest hybrid mass timber structure in the world; Kohler Co., for hosting the Ryder Cup; and Dana Guthrie, managing partner of Gateway Capital Partners, for closing an oversubscribed $13.5 million fundraise.
Read about these accomplishments in this special report.
Corporation of the Year: Milwaukee Bucks
Family-Owned Business of the Year: Kohler Co.
Community Leader of the Year: Dana Guthrie, Gateway Capital
CEO of the Year: Aaron Jagdfeld, Generac
Small Business of the Year: New Land Enterprises
Past Best in Business Honorees
Corporation of the Year:
- 2013 Northwestern Mutual
- 2014 Generac
- 2015 WEC Energy Group
- 2016 Direct Supply
- 2017 Foxconn
- 2018 Klement’s Sausage
- 2019 Fiserv
- 2020 Milwaukee Tool
CEO of the Year:
- 2013 Paul Grangaard, Allen Edmonds
- 2014 Mark DiBlasi, Roadrunner Transportation Systems
- 2015 Peter Feigin, Milwaukee Bucks
- 2016 Tim Sullivan, REV Group
- 2017 Nick Turkal, Aurora Health Care
- 2018 Peggy Troy, Children’s Wisconsin
- 2019 Michelle Gass, Kohl’s
- 2020 Mark Irgens, Irgens
Small Business of the Year:
- 2013 Colectivo Coffee Roasters
- 2014 Bartolotta Restaurant Group
- 2015 Gehl Foods
- 2016 Rinka Chung Architecture
- 2017 Access Healthnet
- 2018 Good City Brewing
- 2019 J. Jeffers & Co.
- 2020 Fiveable
Family-Owned Business of the Year:
- 2013 Super Steel
- 2014 Uline
- 2015 Steinhafels
- 2016 Milwaukee Blacksmith
- 2017 Coakley Brothers
- 2018 Michels Corp.
- 2019 Bartolotta Restaurant Group
- 2020 Rite-Hite
Community Leader of the Year:
- 2013 Rich Meeusen, Badger Meter
- 2014 Tim Sheehy, MMAC
- 2015 The Ramirez Family, Husco International
- 2016 The Baumgartner Family, Paper Machinery Corp.
- 2017 Joanne Johnson-Sabir, Sherman Phoenix
- 2018 Mike and Amy Lovell, Marquette University
- 2019 Alex Lasry, Democratic National Convention
- 2020 Marty Brooks, Wisconsin Center District