Gusmer Enterprises just may be Waupaca’s best-kept secret.
That is what Chris Gusmer, executive vice president of the company, says of the business that was founded in 1918 by Aage Gusmer to serve the brewing industry.
Gusmer’s location on Ware Street, and the fact that most of its business is business to business, means it does not get a lot of exposure locally, he said.
“We have some products on retail shelves, and major fast-food chains use our product to filter the edible oil,” Gusmer said. “It allows restaurants to have their oil last longer.”
It saves those companies money, while also resulting in better quality food, he said.
Gusmer Enterprises has been involved in that market since 1992.
More members of the community now know the company’s story, because Gusmer Enterprises is the Waupaca Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2010 Large Business of the Year. They were among those honored during the chamber’s annual awards program, which was held Jan. 25 at the Best Western Grand Seasons Hotel.
“We were very excited to achieve the award. There are a lot of fantastic businesses in Waupaca. The amazing things the employees have done – it’s nice to get the recognition,” said Gusmer, who started with the company in 1994 and has been in his current role since 2004.
The ownership and management of Gusmer Enterprises is in its third generation. Gusmer’s father, John, retired in 1999, and Gusmer’s cousin, Marla Gusmer Jeffrey, is the company’s president.
Gusmer Enterprises has four locations in the U.S. That includes its domestic manufacturing plants, with one here in Waupaca and the other in Fresno, Calif. The company’s headquarters, sales office, warehouse and instrumentation service is in Mountainside, N.J., and its wine-focused analytical lab, sales office and warehouse are in Napa, Calif.
Gusmer Enterprises-Waupaca is a 100,000-square-foot paper mill that produces high-quality, nonwoven specialty paperboard and molded device products.
Harold Johnston founded the Waupaca location in 1938 as Filter Materials to manufacture Filtermass, a cotton filter pulp used primarily to filter beer. Gusmer purchased an interest in Filter Materials in 1940 and bought the remaining stake in 1962.
The company’s largest markets include wine, biopharmaceutical, edible oil and brewing, with other target markets including specialty products, distilled spirits, juice and fruit, new markets and biorefining.
Gusmer Enterprises-Waupaca employs more than 80 people and runs three shifts anywhere from five to seven days per week. One of those shifts has been running seven days a week for several months, Gusmer said.
Many of the employees have been with the company for quite some time.
“More than 22 percent of the people have been here 30 years or longer,” he said. “We had a big hiring 32 years ago. Many of them stayed around. We’ve been doing a lot of hiring recently.”
The average employee has been with the company more than 12 years.
Much of the hiring during the last 10 years has been in the area of research and development.
Through the years, the company has also expanded in Waupaca. One project took place in 2007 and another in 2008. Today, plans are in place for another significant production expansion, Gusmer said.
“We’re planning an open house in May. Since we are the best-kept secret, it’s fun to showcase what we’ve done,” he said. “The chamber and the city both helped us. It’s nice to show them where their investment has gone.”
This year, Gusmer Enterprises looks forward to continued growth and expansion plans in facilities, equipment and people. Last year, the company experienced record sales, with corporate sales up 17 percent from 2009, overall manufacturing sales up 20 percent, and Wisconsin manufacturing sales up 24 percent.
“We’ve been fortunate,” Gusmer said. “Some of the markets we have chosen to be in are stable or growing.”
The philosophy at Gusmer Enterprises has always been to provide employment and to also be a good community member.
Each year, the company sponsors a team for Relay for Life. Gusmer Enterprises also collects items for the Miracle Tree and allows its employees to help – during company time – with the packing of those items.
Gusmer says there are many generous businesses in the area, making Waupaca fortunate.
“Our vision is Gusmer creates and delivers success through innovative solutions,” he said.
The company plays in many diverse markets, and Gusmer says they are fun markets.
“We are successful,” he said, “because of our employees – people who have been here a long time.”