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L.B. White Co. splits prize money between Coulee Cap program, business incubator

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The L.B. White Company

The L.B. White Co. receives the Wisconsin Business Achievement Award in Madison.

The L.B. White Co. isn’t in the business of entering contests, but when a nomination for the Wisconsin Business Achievement Award crossed his desk, CEO Rick Diermeier decided to take a chance.

“Our interest was in the $75,000 prize to donate to a local nonprofit,” Diermeier said. “For us it’s very exciting to be named for the award out of hundreds of businesses across the state, but it’s more exciting to go out and support local organizations.”

L.B. White, an Onalaska-based manufacturer of natural gas, propane and kerosene heaters, was nominated for the award, given by the Flowers Family Foundation Inc., by Jim Hill, vice president of the Coulee Region Business Center’s board of directors and executive director of the La Crosse Area Development Corp.

“They’ve done really well with their new management ... and moved the business even more far ahead,” Hill said. “Its another great story of a family-owned business in La Crosse that’s done a lot in the community.”

“L.B. White Co. is enhancing quality of life for people, not only through its positive economic impact but also through its charitable contributions,” Flowers Family Foundation Inc. member Rockne Flowers said. “We are pleased to support these efforts.”

The L.B. White Co. received its award at the State of Wisconsin Business event last week, where they steered the $75,000 to the Coulee Region Business Center and the Couleecap Work-N-Wheels program, with each organization receiving $37,500.

“We won this because we’re an innovative business and leading manufacturer worldwide, and in turn we’re using it to help entrepreneurs and also help people improve their lot in life,” Diermeier said of the decision to split the donation. “These are nonprofits that rely on donations, which obviously can be a challenge, so anytime you can help someone, you should.”

Due to a matching fund, Coulee Cap was able to double that donation to $75,000, enough to support the transportation expenses of 40 low-income families. The program provides zero-interest auto loans to employed people who need reliable transportation for work, a cause Diermeier called “very worthwhile.”

Hill said the CRBC will put the donation toward updating the business incubator’s facilities and technology. The CRBC also offers resources, management tools and business planning assistance.

“The donation will help jump start this effort and be extraordinarily helpful over the next year and a half,” Hill said. “We’re just happy that a very deserving western Wisconsin company was able to garner a state award — a highly desirable business achievement award.”

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