Outlook Magazine - Fall 2020


Rising to the Challenge Alumni-owned companies make face shields, isolation gowns, help veterans to support pandemic efforts


“At capacity, we anticipate we can produce about 10,000 a day, as long as the supply chain can deliver,” said company founder Nick Franzen, a 2006 UW-Stout graduate in business administration. In Eau Claire , alumna Sara Bowe began an outreach effort to help veterans at her Uplift Counseling Center. The Minnesota Air National Guard veteran and 2019 UW-Stout master’s graduate in clinical mental health counseling offered to counsel veterans during the pandemic in person or via telehealth options around the state, with a pay-as- you-are-able arrangement.

n March, when it became clear that COVID-19 was a pandemic, the help began arriving. Health care, grocery, transportation and other workers put themselves in harm’s way. People donated their government stimulus checks and brought food to food banks to help feed the unemployed. Neighbors looked out for neighbors while social-distancing. UW-Stout alumni business owners were among those who stepped up to make a difference during a difficult and uncertain time. Here are examples of their efforts: In Unity, N.H. , 2011 engineering technology graduate Dustin Coleman and his wife own and operate Cole- Tac. They started the company in 2015, making tactical accessories for the worldwide shooting industry. With an industrial fabric cutting machine and other key equipment, Coleman knew his company could produce isolation gowns for health care and other workers. Coleman drew the patterns, and his company was making them within a week. When word got out, requests flooded in. Cole-Tac soon was making up to 150 gowns a day. Then, working with two other companies, Cole-Tac joined an effort to make 10,000 face masks. In Janesville , plastic thermoforming company Prent, with its sister company GOEX, quickly designed and produced more than 30,000 face shields in March. Prent donated the shields to health care and other essential workers in Janesville, Flagstaff, Ariz., and Yauco, Puerto Rico, three of the five cities where it has facilities. Prent also donated 3,000 face shields to UW-Stout. The effort at Prent involved about 10% of the company’s employees, according to Joe Pregont II, the son of CEO Joe Pregont, a 1981 industrial technology graduate with a minor in packaging. Joe also dedicated the Prent Packaging Laboratories at UW-Stout in 2018. In Sheboygan , Franzen Graphics/Sun Media also switched part of its production facilities to make thin, plastic face shields, designing a one-piece product in two thicknesses. The company had orders for tens of thousands of the shields, which it sold at cost.

Workers at Prent in Janesville make plastic face shields to help those involved in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

A worker at Franzen Graphics/Sun Media demonstrates a clear plastic face shield to help protect health care and other workers during the pandemic. The Sheboygan company, which was making up to 10,000 shields a day, was founded by a UW-Stout alumnus.


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