Engaging entrepreneur and philanthropist to speak in Grand Forks

Mona Mattei
By Mona Mattei
March 10th, 2011

So what is Leadership? What is Staying Power? Yes, it’s certainly big vision and adaptability, but it’s also paying attention to the small moment’s one person at a time. Or so it goes according to Mr. Gus Whalen, CEO of the Warren Featherbone Company.  Mr. Whalen is a testament to staying power as the leader of his family business that has been in existence for over 125 years.  In honor of the “Year of the Entrepreneur”, Community Futures Boundary (CFB) is very pleased to be bringing Whalen to the Boundary. Whalen is not just a businessman and philanthropist, he is a very intriguing speaker, says Wendy McCulloch, general manager of CFB.  “He is one of the most engaging speakers that I’ve ever heard,” said McCulloch. “He tells an interesting story of the evolution of change in his business and how many changes they’ve had to make over the 125 years to stay sustainable. He’s got a really good message for our community.”  When the average life for small business in today’s world is six years, Featherbone Company is most definitely the exception to the rule. They started making materials for women’s corsets, morphed into cloth diapers and then into children’s clothing. Over the years, they have continued to weather economic storms and consumer trends, and have now diversified into manufacturing, baby clothes, banking and agriculture. At the heart of the company is philanthropy and community.  That philanthropy started in 1917 when Whalen’s great grandfather, E.K. Warren, created the first foundation in Michigan setting a new standard for philanthropic achievement in that state.  Whalen continued the tradition of philanthropy when the building that had housed his company came back to life with the “Interactive Neighborhood for Kids,” known as INK, the East campus for Brenau University housing their nursing school including a new masters level program, and a section for innovation, “The Manufacturer Development Center,” a place for inventors and entrepreneurs to work together creating new products, new jobs and a new future for the region. The MDC is a part of the Lanier Technical College Foundation and houses the University of Georgia’s SBDC, Georgia Tech’s SBIR, and has other affiliations with North Georgia College and State University, Brenau University, and now Louisiana State University.  The colleges and universities offer support for local entrepreneurs and businessmen to help move their products forward. From a “deer stand that climbs the tree for you” to “cranial plating” many types of products have been represented. However, more and more the medical products field has become the concentration. Manufacturing is the goal and is coming as the funding is improving in what has been a poor economy.  Whalen will be presenting at the Omega Restaurant in Grand Forks on Apr. 6. CFB will also be presenting the results of their recent business retention and expansion survey at the event.  The presentation will begin at 5:00 p.m. and will include appetizers and time for networking. Whalen is a highly sought after presenter and the author of several books including The Featherbone Principal – A Declaration of Interdependence. Who should attend? Anyone in business, anyone who cares about community and family and anyone with an appetite for entrepreneurship.

For more information, contact Jennifer at Community Futures Boundary at 250-445-6618 or email jennifer@boundarycf.com. Please RSVP to Community Futures Boundary by Mar.  31   Grand Forks 250-442-2722 or Greenwood 250-445-6618.   

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