WholeTrees Architecture and Structures, a design and construction company founded in Stoddard, received a loan of $ 170,000 from the state to launch a new product line.
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. Technology Development Loan will help fund the Madison-based company’s expansion into the commercial building materials market and could create up to 76 new jobs over the next four years, according to the company.
WholeTrees has also been designated as a Qualifying New Business, making investors eligible for a 25 percent tax credit on the amount they invest.
Founded in 2007 by La Crosse architect Roald Gundersen and his partner, Amelia Baxter, WholeTrees has grown into a company with up to 13 employees working out of the Madison headquarters and a boutique on the couple’s Stoddard farm.
The six-year loan at 6% interest, along with $ 1 million in grants from the USDA, will help fund a new mass production plant in Muscoda, Wisconsin, which is expected to create several new jobs this winter. and will nearly double the workforce by the end of 2015, said Baxter, the president of the company.
While the company still offers custom architectural and construction design services to showcase its products, Baxter said the main focus now has been on manufacturing columns, beams and trusses for the construction industry.
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Using small diameter trees – often to remove invasive species – that are too small to be milled, WholeTrees makes log structural systems that are comparable to steel in strength – and cost.
“This is the reason this is going to work,” Baxter said. “The value has already been created by the tree itself.”
The result, Baxter said, are healthier forests, less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and profitable buildings. In addition, the model offers a chance for local economic development.
Gundersen has been using “whole tree” designs for over two decades, using unmilled wood, often with branches intact. Its portfolio includes private residences as well as institutional structures. The WholeTrees structures can be viewed at the Myrick Hixon EcoPark in La Crosse.
“The tip of what this material can do is how we got this far,” Baxter said.
The company is currently providing materials for a 50,000 square foot commercial building in Madison.
Reed Hall, CEO of the quasi-public company WEDC, praised the company for producing a profitable construction product while promoting sound forest management.
“This is the type of innovation that we are encouraging with the Technology Development Loan program,” said Hall, “which helps Wisconsin companies overcome some of the challenges of bringing new products to market or concepts. “