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From Home Furnishing Business

Ashley Furniture Founder, Ron Wanek, Named to Manufacturing Hall of Fame

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) – the combined state chamber and manufacturers’ association – is reestablishing the Manufacturing Hall of Fame and naming the founder and chairman of the world’s largest manufacturer of home furnishings as the first inductee since the 1970s.

Ron Wanek founded Arcadia Furniture in 1970 in the small Western Wisconsin town of Arcadia. In 1982, Arcadia Furniture and Ashley Furniture Corp. merged into Ashley Furniture Industries. Today, Ashley has grown to become the world’s largest manufacturer of home furnishings, with over 30,000,000 square feet of worldwide manufacturing and distribution capacity, and Ashley retail locations throughout the United States and in 67 countries. Ashley employs 16,000 people in the United States, including nearly 3,000 in Wisconsin.

Wanek will join an impressive list of 78 iconic Wisconsin business titans already in what was then called the Industrial Hall of Fame. Past inductees include Jerome Case, Patrick Cudahy, Kurtis Froedtert, Henry Harnischfeger, Samuel Curtis Johnson, John Kimberly, Walter Kohler, Oscar Mayer, George Mead, Frederick Miller, Charles Nash, Gustave Pabst, F.J. Sensenbrenner, Arthur O. Smith, and Reuben Trane.

WMC’s predecessor organization, Wisconsin Manufacturers’ Association, started the Hall of Fame in the 1950s “to honor those individuals who made significant contributions to the state’s industrial history.” In 1970, for an unknown reason, the Hall of Fame was discontinued. However, WMC, in partnership with First Business Bank, made the decision to reconstitute it in order to showcase Wisconsin’s continuing manufacturing legacy and future opportunities.

“The goal is to recognize the lifetime achievement of transformative leaders and innovators in Wisconsin’s economic super sector,” explained WMC President & CEO Kurt R. Bauer. “The selection criteria for inductees focuses on an individual’s economic impact, leadership, civic engagement, community philanthropy and enduring legacy.”

“Ron Wanek is at the top of the list of every one of those categories, which is why he was the unanimous choice to be the first modern inductee into the Wisconsin Manufacturing Hall of Fame,” Bauer added. “Ron’s achievements are unmatched, and he also deserves recognition for his passionate support and promotion of both the American Dream and free enterprise.”

Read Mr. Wanek’s biography here.

“I am honored to receive this award,” said Wanek. “The people at Ashley deserve the credit. We have always had an outstanding team in Wisconsin and throughout our organization and are proud of our manufacturing ability.”

Wanek said he was pleased to see the Hall of Fame reinstated, explaining that manufacturing does not get enough recognition for its contribution to a positive balance of trade and enriching the state and nation.

Wanek has received at least 28 other noteworthy high honors, including the Horatio Alger Award and many furniture industry recognitions.

The induction ceremony will be held the evening of Feb. 22 at the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee as part of the annual Wisconsin Manufacturer of the Year (MOTY) awards.

Source: Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce



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