Nominees in this category will be an Osceola Area Chamber business or organization that demonstrates excellence in collaboration to improve the economic vitality of the community through leadership, sponsorships, volunteerism, and partnering with other organizations and/or businesses.”
Phil Mattison, Core Products International
Minnesota’s loss; Wisconsin’s gain
Our next award is a new one for this year – Community Partner of the Year. There are many good choices around Osceola but Phil Mattison and Core Products stood out from the rest for the owner’s and company’s support of community non-profit entities such as the Osceola Medical Center, the OMC Health Foundation, The United Way and specifically, Wheels & Wings. Phil has served on the Osceola Airport Commission for 20 years but he DOES receive reimbursement for that – a whopping $25.00 a year. Since Phil has been on the commission, the airport has been expanded and the number of runways and hangars have doubled. Income has also increased. The commission also operates with a nearly balanced budget each year. Does anyone know the reason whether the commission breaks even on their budget each year or goes over? It’s the amount of snow. If there is less snow, the airport can be used more so income increases.
Core Products was founded in 1988. Phil’s motivation to choose Osceola as Core’s headquarters was pure and simple – Wisconsin offered a much better business climate with tax incentives in place at the time than Minnesota. Over time, Phil also has come to highly respect the culture and people of our small town. He feels workers here are the best in all regards: they are highly educated, easy to communicate with, have the best work ethic, and they understand the importance of the quality of the product - all of which makes for a positive culture for work. Core Products currently employs a total of 120 employees in plants in Osceola, Chetek and Toronto, Canada. The Toronto company, Therapeutica was a competitor of Core Products and when the owners wanted to retire, Phil purchased the company. They are presently in the process of turning the company over to Core.
Phil’s journey to his involvement with Wheels & Wings happened over the course of years. He took his first flying lesson at Osceola’s airport and has flown his own plane ever since. Phil has high praise for our airport. It has the best flight school in the area with Woody Minor as a Designated Examiner. This is a BIG deal for the airport reports Phil.
Several years ago, Phil owned the hangar close to the main parking lot where the Wheels & Wings pancake breakfast was served. Phil was asked if he would allow the hangar to be used for the breakfast. He said sure. That first year, the pancake equipment blew every fuse in the place. The next year, Phil had the hangar rewired to accommodate all the equipment. The breakfast has continued to be a popular event and is still held in that hangar (even though Phil no longer owns it). In 2014, 800 plates of pancakes were served.
Several years ago when Classic Motorbooks was sold and moved out of Osceola, Phil and Steve Mueller agreed to keep the car show part of Wheels & Wings going. They moved the car show up to the airport. The last year that Motorbooks sponsored the event, an air show was added. Extra ordinances were needed but it proved to be a very popular draw for Wheels & Wings attendees. That year they also wanted to add drag races but could not do that for liability reasons. The radar run was added instead. Now that is one of the most popular offerings at Wheels & Wings.
Two years ago, Phil realized that more could be done with the air show. He attended the conference of the International Council of Air Shows and learned lots about air shows. For liability concerns, the air show needs to be run by a legal entity. This is why the Wheels & Wings Corp. was founded. Adaw Jarchow, from Baake Norman Law Office provided the legal work necessary and Wheels & Wings, Corp is now organized and has its 501(c) status. The Wheels & Wings Board of Directors includes one member representing the Osceola Chamber of Commerce, the Village of Osceola, Osceola Lion’s Club and the Osceola Airport Commission. The present board is Bob Wolf, ?????? Rod Turner, Bernie Desmarais. It is important to note that Phil is not on the board.
Last year the Wheels & Wings board was organized but much work still needed to be done to actually host the event. There have been some growing pains with this transition from a small town event into a premier air show. Some are happy with the changes; some are unhappy but to keep the event going, more revenue is needed. 2014 saw an important sponsorship from Central Bank to help fund added traffic control, parking personnel and of course those porta potties. Over 8,000 people attended the event this year. Phil has high praise for Germaine (she is a godsend says Phil) for the hard work and skills she provides. Scott Lindahl is also in need of many thanks for stepping up and developing the new Wheels & Wings website. Thanks to you both.
Wheels & Wings, Corp volunteers started meeting right away. There are board meetings, weekly meetings, steering committee meetings, and marketing committee meetings. This past year, at least one Wheel & Wings group was meeting every week. Wheels & Wings, Corp is a real entity now and will require more “care and feeding” moving forward but the people and interest are definitely there.
So what’s the payoff for an event of this magnitude for our small town? Wheels & Wings brings about 10,000 potential customers in the Osceola area. This translates to about four times our population coming into town for one day. What other town can do that? Once people see what we have to offer, they have many reasons to come back. After all, we have great small town appeal, low crime, great schools and a great lifestyle here.
Phil asks, “How good can we be as using this as an economic development tool?” People come, they stop in stores and restaurants. If you can get people to show up once, it’s much easier to get them to come back a second time. This is a great selling opportunity for Osceola. Demographics show that people who attend air shows are higher educated and have higher incomes. Attractive tax credits also make this a good time for new business in Wisconsin or for businesses to relocate. Phil feels “the airshow is a marketing tool like none other.”
Phil states: “The Wheels & Wings airshow is how we can make the best Osceola we can make!”
Many thanks Phil and Core Products for your support of our town and Wheels & Wings.
We welcome Bernie Desmarais to say a few words about the economic development element to the event and accept the award for Phil. Phil and is family are vacationing in Florida at the present time.
Team of authors contribute. Germaine Ross, Chamber Director, Nancy Beck, Board Member.