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La Crosse Technology expects its revolutionary Weather Direct weather system to be a big hit when it becomes available this summer, President and CEO Allan McCormick said Tuesday.

Speaking as part of Viterbo University's "Leadership at Noon Series," McCormick said his La Crosse-based company's new product will be the world's first Internet-powered weather system. Several models will be available, with prices ranging from $59 to $130.

The invention uses a high-speed Internet connection to deliver customized multi-day weather forecasts and current weather information, and can automatically deliver weather alerts. It also offers a variety of personal information choices, such as news headlines, sports scores and financial news.

Among other things, the device can take the place of an alarm clock. A computerized voice can awaken someone by their name, then provide a customized weather forecast and news headlines.

There is no subscription cost.

La Crosse Technology sells advanced-technology weather instruments, power monitors, clocks and watches.

McCormick started the business in 1983, distributing German-made grandfather clocks from his home in Caledonia, Minn. He incorporated the business in 1985.

McCormick had been stationed in Germany while in the Army, and stayed there afterward to learn the clock-making trade. Before joining the Army, he had planned to become a game warden.

McCormick's first factory was in Caledonia, and he later moved manufacturing to Spring Grove, Minn. But today, all of the company's products are made in China. Costs are much lower there, although the quality is high, McCormick said.

"I don't like it any better than you do," McCormick said of having products made overseas. But it's a necessity for anyone who plans to be in his company's business, he said.

La Crosse Technology today has about 100 employees, most of them in its building at 2809 S. Losey Blvd. in La Crosse. The other employees are in La Crescent, Minn., and Spring Grove.

His company requires that its sales people be "quite motivated" and have high ethical standards, McCormick said.

He also spoke about ethics and said one of his company's largest customers, Wal-Mart, doesn't allow its buyers to accept meals or other items from others. "You can't even buy them a cup of coffee," McCormick said, adding he finds that attitude "refreshing."

Steve Cahalan can be reached at (608) 791-8229 or scahalan@lacrossetribune.com.

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