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Stoughton Trailers Wins Wisconsin Family Business of the Year Special Award

May 05, 2017

Stoughton Trailers, LLC, won the Wisconsin Family Business of the Year Awards' Special Award, "Pulling for Success," at the fourteenth annual awards ceremony on Thursday, May 4, at the Monona Terrace Community & Convention Center.

Read a Wisconsin State Journal article about the award here. View an In Business photo gallery of the award winners here, an In Business article on the awards here, and a Trailer Body Builders story here.

The Wisconsin Family Business of the Year Awards were created to highlight and celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of family businesses that stand out in the state's business community. The winners were selected by a panel of independent judges based on criteria including positive links between family and business, contribution to community and industry, and innovative practices. 

"The resilience and creativity of the family businesses we see is remarkable," said Julie Bogle, lead partner in the family business practice at Smith & Gesteland, the awards' founding sponsor. "They are the cornerstones in their communities. We love recognizing the wonderful things they have done in Wisconsin."

Stoughton Trailers' history goes back to 1961, when Don Wahlin bought a trailer company out of bankruptcy. By the 1990s, it had grown to seven plants and more than 1,500 employees. But when the Great Recession hit in 2008, the company struggled to stay afloat. The workforce dipped below 300, and it was forced to close several of its plants. Thanks to persistence coupled with investment in educating the remaining employees, Stoughton Trailers rebuilt its sales network to become even stronger and more nimble.

Today, the company is the largest manufacturer in Dane County, and the fifth largest semitrailer manufacturer in the United States. Seven of the second-generation Wahlins have a hand in the family business, and Stoughton Trailers provides one of the most attractive benefits packages to its workers to demonstrate how valuable its employees are. 

The judges noted in their comments that they were impressed with the company's resilience and perseverance during the recession; the creation of a well-funded foundation;  dedication to its employees; and unwavering core values. 

There were 31 companies chosen as nominees, and Stoughton Trailers was one of eight to receive awards, competing in the Large Company category (100-plus employees. Stoughton Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Laura Trotter submitted the company's nomination.

Grand Award Winners included Brakebush Brothers of Westfield (Large Company); Crave Brothers Farm & Farmstead Cheese of Waterloo (Medium Company); and Wiedenbeck, Inc., of Monona (Small Company). Special Awards went to Central Storage & Warehouse Co., Inc. ("Service and Quality ... Down Cold"); County Materials Corp. of Marathon ("Bridging the Skills Gap"); Reynolds Transfer & Storage, Inc. of Madison ("Moving Through the Generations"); and Qual Line Corp. of Waunakee ("Heart of Steel").

The awards program was sponsored by Smith & Gesteland, a Madison-based CPA and consulting firm; First Business Bank; and Husch Blackwell, a Wisconsin law firm. 

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