Bio: Streckert, Tom (Business Award - 2010)


Contact: Robert Lipprandt


Surnames: O’Brien, Streckert 

----Source: The Tribune - Phonograph (Abbotsford, Clark Co., Wisconsin) Wednesday, January 20, 2010, Page 1, By Kevin O’Brien  

Creative Automation honored Abby’s ‘Business of the Year’ 

In the corner of Creative Automation’s conference room sits a small steam engine Tom Streckert built when he was just 14 years old.  

"My interest in machinery goes way back," he says.  

The mechanical inclination he had growing up in Abbotsford eventually developed into Creative Automation, which Streckert started nearly 40 years ago in his garage.  

The family-owned manufacturing and engineering firm is being honored as the 2009 Business of the Year by the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce at its annual banquet Sunday at city hall.  

Streckert owns and operates Creative Automation with his wife, Sondra, and their son Mark, the company’s vice presidents.  

Creative Automation designs and builds automated machinery for the wood-working industry, including  companies like Menards in Eau Claire and Pella Windows. Their clients also include the nation’s largest kitchen cabinet makers.  

Tom said they have built and maintained a loyal client base by custom designing their equipment and standing behind their work.  

"We’re able to design prototype machinery to fit the customers’ needs, instead of making cookie-cutter machinery that doesn’t fit anybody’s needs — which is what most other people do," Tom said.  

The Streckert family has deep roots in the Abbotsford community, going back to Tom’s parents, who started Streckert Manufacturing (now Strek-O Doors) in the 1940s. Growing up with the family wood-working business gave Tom the background he needed to develop his own manufacturing brand.   

After graduating from Abbotsford High School, Tom went to Janesville for a year to study aircraft mechanics before transferring to the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he majored in business and mathematics.  

A licensed pilot, Tom flew airplanes at Mid-State Air Commuter for two years before returning to Abbotsford to work for Streckert Manufacturing. 

Then, in March 1971, he broke out on his own and began Creative Automation as a one-man operation.  The full-scale shop was built in 1974, with six additions since then to create the current 66,000-square-foot building on Linden Street.  

Mark, who was four years old when the company got started, also graduated from Abbotsford High School and then earned an electrical and computer engineering degree at UW-Madison.  

He worked at Oscar Mayer Foods for two and a half years after college before returning to Abbotsford in 1993 to permanently join the family business. 

Father and son run the company together, doing everything from sales and engineering to overall management. Sondra was the first secretary, and continues to oversee the company’s finances and personnel as a vice president and corporate secretary. 

All together, Creative Automation employs 35 people, which includes six people in the engineering department. Employees travel all over the country to sell and install their equipment. 

Some of Creative Automation’s clients have been with them for over 30 years. 

"Fortunately we don’t have to have much of a marketing budget because of that," Mark said.  

The company always invests in the latest computer technology to make sure their equipment is as efficient and accurate as possible.   

"We are trying to be industry leaders in the equipment that we design and build," Tom said. "So, we’re definitely using leading edge technology."  

This includes three-dimensional computer-aided design software, which offers an advantage over the traditional 2D programs that require three different drawings. In today’s market, Tom said their equipment has to be able to develop a wide variety of products without taking much time to switch over.   

"There’s no comparison between then and now in that regard," he said. "It’s gotten exponentially more complex."  

Creative Automation gives back to the community with a yearly scholarship to an Abbotsford High School graduate. Sondra oversees the program, reviewing the applications and selecting up to four recipients. The scholarship is renewed every year until the student graduates from college.  

"Any student these days can use some help getting through college, as expensive as it is," she said.  

Abbotsford may not be the perfect location for a manufacturing company, with no major airport close by, Tom said, but the Streckert family is loyal to their hometown.  

"It’s been a really nice place to raise our family, and now a pretty good environment for Mark to raise his family," Sondra said.  

They also have many loyal employees who have come to the Abbotsford area and stayed for many years.  

"Once you have someone here, then they pretty much stay," Tom said. "So, we have a lot of long-term people here."  



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