While many companies have been forced to scale back in uncertain economic times, one local business is forging forward, expanding operations and creating Oneida County jobs in the process.
T.A. Solberg Company recently entered into what the company calls the “first phase” of a multi-million dollar investment in the company’s smokehouse and meat department facilities. The news comes on the heels of the company opening its Ace Hardware store in the Trig’s RiverWalk Centre in October.
“This will permit us to make our smokehouse facility much more efficient,” said Gary Husnick, Trig’s Director of Meat Operations. “More importantly, it will give us the room to purchase and install state-of-the-art equipment that will enable us to increase our production greatly out of the department.”
Officials with the longtime Northwoods company said the expansion will initially create two to three additional jobs, but could create additional opportunities as demand dictates in the months to come. Last October Trig’s Smokehouse won the title of World’s Best Bratwurst at the World’s Best Brat Competition in Watertown for the second year in a row. Competing against some of the biggest names in bratwurst like Johnsonville and Usinger’s, Trig’s Smokehouse was also once again voted Fan Favorite at the competition.
“As we continue to be recognized for our World’s Best Brats and other awards, Trig’s Smokehouse operations has experienced sales growth in all categories, including smoked sausages, jerkies, hams and more,” said Lee Guenther, President and C.E.O. of the T.A. Solberg Co. in October. “Subsequently, we are expanding the Trig’s Smokehouse to allow us to meet increased demand, as well as further diversify and expand the variety of fresh and smoked meats produced by the Smokehouse.”
According to Husnick, some small renovations are already taking place at the Stevens Street location, while the company is in the process of bidding out several of the major parts of the project.
“We are hoping to have crews in the building in mid-January, with the hope of having the facility up and fully operational by late spring,” said Husnick. “Overall the building is in nice shape, so it’s just a matter of suiting it to fit our needs.”
Husnick said that the building already has a large freezer and cooler that will be used by the smokehouse. The company will install another industrial-size cooler, and will need to install drainage in all the floors to meet federal food packaging codes. Husnick said the plan is for the Smokehouse to take up half of the 30,000 square foot facility, while the other half will be used as storage for the company’s grocery operation. Trig’s current smokehouse, housed in the Rhinelander store, is only 1,500 square feet. The larger facility will enable Trig’s to take on additional venison processing orders, and Husnick said there also should be a quicker turn-around time on those orders.
“Saying this is going to be an upgrade for us is an understatement,” said Husnick. “Things are going to be much more streamlined, and our customers will see the difference.”
Husnick also pointed out that the new smokehouse facility will be federally licensed instead of state licensed, which will enable the company to sell its meat products across state lines for the first time. The company is also in the process of building a website that will allow consumers to order Trig’s Smokehouse meat products online to ship to anywhere in the world.
“There aren’t many companies that can say they offer something that has been deemed the ‘World’s Best,'” said Husnick. “We’ve attended numerous events all over the Midwest, including the Wisconsin State Fair, in the past year, and have found a huge market for our World’s Best Brat, along with many of our other meat items. The award has been a tremendous marketing tool for Trig’s It’s a successful blessing for us at the very least.”
Husnick said that when he joined T.A. Solberg Co. 5 years ago, the locally produced meat products were only sold out of the Rhinelander store. Products are now available in all Trig’s locations, including Wausau, Stevens Point, Minocqua and Eagle River, and could be in even more stores soon. Husnick said that, despite the growth of the smokehouse, Trig’s has no plans to relocate the operation from Rhinelander to the corporate offices in Wausau.
“Trig’s has had its Smokehouse in Rhinelander for 20-plus years, and it has always gotten great acceptance from the community,” he said. “Rhinelander always has had our largest sales volume for our smokehouse products. Most of our smokehouse employees are from the Rhinelander area. There’s no reason to change something that’s working so well and has been so successful.”
Husnick said that while the T.A. Solberg company is making a huge financial investment in the new smokehouse, the success the department has realized in the past few years easily justifies it.
“Basically in 5 years we’ve gone from a very small smokehouse that only served one store to taking our products to the verge of the world stage,” he said. “That’s a huge compliment to our employees.”