Citing family responsibilities, Mike Kawleski is stepping down Nov. 12 as executive director of the Central Wisconsin Agribusiness Innovation Center, the non-profit group that is establishing an agricultural business incubator near Owen. Kawleski led fundraising, tenant recruitment and marketing for the Center, which is a key component of a 71-acre ag-related complex, the Clark County Agribusiness Park, located just south of Highway 29.
"It is an honor and privilege to serve the Center, because its mission – to assist entrepreneurs, create jobs and train citizens for future careers in agriculture-related industries – is both necessary and doable," says Kawleski. "The City of Owen and Clark County are forward-thinking. They realize that businesses that start and grow in central Wisconsin will stay in central Wisconsin."
The Agribusiness Innovation Center will be a multi-purpose facility with 48,586 square feet of business incubator space for agricultural entrepreneurs, "smart" classrooms, public meeting and event space, a commercial test/classroom kitchen, laboratory space for research and development, offices for lease, distance learning capabilities and a computer lab. Groundbreaking for the building is planned for March 2011.
Kawleski has been commuting on weekends to the family home near Green Bay, more than two hours from Owen.
"It has been increasingly difficult to be an absent father and husband. Plus, in the past two months, my dad passed away and my son had a close call in a car crash. Those events just reinforced the need for closer contact and connections with my family," he explains. He also notes that his father's death has increased his obligations to the family farm in Portage County."Mike has definitely driven this project forward in the past few months, and we are sorry to see him go," says CWAIC president Ryan Stockwell, Medford. "His experience, background and contacts made him a perfect fit for his role as executive director." However, he explains, Kawleski will continue to serve the Center as an unpaid board member and will lead its communications activities. "CWAIC still has my whole-hearted support," stresses Kawleski. "This is too important a project to allow it to fail."
Stockwell says the board of directors is already interviewing candidates for the executive director position and plans to hire someone as soon as possible. Interested candidates can get more information about the position from the "Careers" page on the organization's website, www.agribusinessinnovation.org.Before joining CWAIC, Kawleski was the agriculture market leader for Wisconsin Public Service Corporation for six years and held positions at the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board and Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation. He is also an instructor for the Singapore-based Asia Pacific Institute for Management Development, president of the Wisconsin FFA Foundation board of directors, and communications director for State Representative Gary Tauchen.