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St. Croix EDC honors top businesses for 2011

Angela Popenhagen, left, and Scott Ward are the principals of Stevens Engineering in Hudson and represented the company in receiving the EDC's 2011 Small Business of the Year (29 or fewer employees).1 / 4
Angel, left, and Shannon Zimmerman are owners of Sajan Inc. in River Falls and they were selected as the 2011 Business of the Year (30 or more employees).2 / 4
John Vrieze, left, and Steve Meyer of Future Farm Food and Fuel LLC in Baldwin received the award for the Emerging Business of the Year (in business for five or fewer years).3 / 4
Comedian Dick Jonckowski, center, provided entertainment at the banquet. Jonckowski is probably best known as the University of Minnesota Gopher PA Voice. At left is EDC President Ryan Sicard and at right is EDC Executive Director Bill Rubin.4 / 4

The St. Croix Economic Development Corporation honored three St. Croix County businesses with 2011 business of the year awards at its annual banquet Thursday, Feb. 16 at Kilkarney Golf Club. Among the three winners was Hudson's Stevens Engineering.

The three winning businesses were:

--Future Farm Food and Fuel LLC (Baldwin) as 2011 Emerging Business of the Year (based in St. Croix County and in business for five or fewer years)

--Stevens Engineers (Hudson) as 2011 Small Business of the Year (29 or fewer employees)

--Sajan Inc. (River Falls) as 2011 Business of the Year (30 or more employees).

Ryan Sicard, president of St. Croix Economic Development Corporation, conducted the meeting with an assist from EDC Executive Director Bill Rubin and Administrative Assistant Jacki Bradham.

"This year's award winners reflect the diversity of businesses in St. Croix County," said Sicard. "Future Farm introduces sustainable elements that are aligned with new products in modern agriculture. Stevens Engineers has a track record of more than 35 years, and now it is a certified women's business enterprise. Sajan is a home-grown, high-tech company that has a global footprint with offices in North America, Europe, and Asia."

The winning businesses also received numerous plaques and letters of recognition. Among those sending honors were: U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, St. Croix County Board Chair Daryl Standafer and state legislative recognition from State Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, State Rep. Dean Knudson, State Rep. John Murtha and State Rep. Erik Severson.

About the 2011 Winners

--Stevens Engineers Inc. (Hudson, Small Business of the Year) has been providing professional engineering and planning services to public and private sector clients since 1973. Their clients include municipalities, counties, state agencies, watershed districts and private entities.

Angela Popenhagen and Scott Ward are the principals of Stevens, having purchased the company from the previous owner in February 2007.

Popenhagen is a LEED accredited professional and with her majority interest in the company, Stevens Engineers is a certified women's business enterprise.

Ward has gained a strong, national reputation in planning, consulting and designing ice rinks. This has allowed Stevens to provide consulting services on over 100 ice rink projects such as the Phoenix Coyotes training facility (Scottsdale, Ariz.); Ice Skating Center (Pasadena, Calif.); Schwan's Super Rink at the National Sports Center (Blaine, Minn.) Division 1 colleges facilities such as Amsoil Arena (Duluth, Minn.); Sanford Center (Bemidji, Minn.) and Kohl Center expansion (Madison).

Other services provided by Stevens include comprehensive planning, geographic information (GIS), surveying, and site and land development.

--Sajan Inc. (River Falls, Large Business of the Year) was found in 1997 by Shannon Zimmerman and his wife and partner Angel.

The business emerged as a technology company but in responding to market demands, quickly adapted the offering to blend both language technology and service as a way to offer a more complete solution to clients.

Today Sajan is the leading global provider of cloud-based language translation services and software. Sajan has global companies as clients that are served in offices in the U.S., Europe, Asia and India.

From River Falls, the company provides language translation solutions to customers selling their products into global markets or those customers otherwise requiring language translation of many varieties of content.

Language is often a barrier in global commerce, and the demand for effective language translation continues to grow. Sajan offers consulting services, solutions services and managed services to its clients. Industries served include life sciences, software, e-commerce, manufacturing, legal and travel, hospitality and leisure.

--Future Farm Food and Fuel (Baldwin, Emerging Business of the Year) focuses on sustainable, green and locally grown.

John Vrieze of Baldwin Dairy and business partner Steve Meyer had a vision to complement Vrieze's Baldwin Dairy, a 100-year-old family farm. They created Future Farm to use the waste streams of farms and other operations to create food, fuel and revenue and to reduce the impact on the environment.

Meyer serves as director of operations for Future Farm. The state-of-the-art aquaponic greenhouse in rural Baldwin uses the fuel from the dairy farm to minimize CO2 emissions, which reduces the carbon footprint. The 27,000-square-foot aquaponic and hydroponic system produces all-natural vegetables and tilapia fish without chemicals or pesticides. Fancy leaf lettuce, vegetables and herbs are grown in an environment powered by biogas from the nearby dairy farm.

The tilapia provide nutrient rich water that fertilizes the plants so commercial chemicals are not needed. Future Farms also produces a natural fertilizer that is especially created for the consumer market. The company provides consulting services to help other dairy operations enter the sustainable, locally grown markets.


@t:This is the 18th annual business recognition program for St. Croix EDC. Entertainment for the evening was provided by Comedian Dick Jonckowski. He is best known as the University of Minnesota Gopher PA Voice.

Jonckowski, often called the Polish Eagle, has entertained thousands of people across the U.S. and Canada with a sense of humor, positive outlook, and in-depth knowledge of sports and great players.

His theme revolved around the phrase "Laugh and Live Longer."

"Sports and laughter are the center of my universe," said Jonckowski. "Ever since I was a kid, sports were the only thing I cared about. Laughter is so important. I love to see people happy."

He kept the EDC audience laughing with has large array of one liners.

The EDC was established in 1993 as a private, non-for-profit organization that operates as the independent economic development of St. Croix County. Reflective activities include marketing and communications, business retention, expansion, recruitment, new business start-ups and legislative advocacy.

For additional information, contact Bill Rubin at (715) 381-4383.