- Most people in the Northwoods couldn't find tiny Newald on a map. The community is little more than a cluster of houses in the middle of the Forest County woods.
But to the people of Cleereman Industries, it has been the center of success for decade after decade.
"It's kind of a family business. It started out with my great-grandpa, and my grandpa, and my dad," said Cleereman Industries Vice President Paul Cleereman.
Generation after generation of Cleereman men have been in the automated sawmill carriage business, supplying sawmills with the equipment to transform logs into lumber.
"It's in your blood, you know? It just gets to be a way of life," Cleereman said. "If you think about it, I'm third generation. My sister's boy is here now. He's fourth generation."
Earlier generations of the family started a sawmill in Newald in the early part of the 20th century, but by 1949, it was also making something new.
"My grandfather is credited with making the first automated sawmill carriage in the United States. That was right here in Newald," Cleereman said proudly.
Not too long after that invention 67 years ago, members of the Cleereman family stopped producing their own lumber. Instead, the venture became Cleereman Industries, focusing on its rapidly growing sawmill carriage business.
While the technology has changed since then, the idea remains the same.
"We build the heavy equipment that's used to break a log down into lumber," explained Cleereman Industries Vice President Jeff Krueger.
The company has grown steadily.
"We sell more carriages than all the other manufacturers combined in the course of a year," said Cleereman. "We're currently serving over 1,050 sawmills."
At first, Cleereman Industries' sawmill carriages were painted grey, until local mill operator Dick Krawze wanted something different.
"Krawze decided that he wanted his carriage painted green because the last one they had run had made him so much money, and the color green reminded him of money," Cleereman said with a laugh. "Everybody seemed to like the green better, and green's been our color."
Today, Cleereman sells its green-shaded products across the continent. But the workforce stays right in the area.
"Of the 31 that are working here right now, everybody in our shop here is from Forest County," Cleereman said.
"That makes me probably the most proud, is just how we can affect 30 families in Forest County," Krueger said. "We could not stay in business this long if we didn't have a group of employees who were so valuable to us. We really appreciate their hard work and their work ethic."
Those families are contributing to the local workforce because of one family's storied history.
"My dad's 71 and has been here 50-some years," Cleereman said.
Fran Cleereman is the company's president. He grew up in a house just steps from Cleereman Industries' production buildings.
It's people like these who have built the Cleereman Industries success story from that simple mill in the Forest County woods so many decades ago.
"It's home," Paul Cleereman said of Forest County. "It's who we are and where we live."
Story By: Ben Meyer