HAGER CITY -- About 60 business and government leaders gathered at The Bluffs Bar & Grill Jan. 15 as the Pierce County Economic Development Corp. celebrated the past year's successes and honored two distinguished firms -- both from the Maiden Rock area -- as businesses of the year.

Named Large Business of the Year was Wieser Concrete Products Inc., which is celebrating 50 years in business this year.

Founded by Joseph H. Wieser in 1965, the firm operates manufacturing facilities near Maiden Rock, at Menomonie, Portage and Fond du Lac, Wisconsin and Roxanna, Ill.

The company makes an extensive and diverse line of precast concrete products for the agricultural, underground, highway, and commercial markets. Products are distributed from throughout the U.S., as well as Canada and Mexico. The firm now employs more than 100 people.

Owners Joe, Mary and Dan Wieser were on-hand to accept the award from Paul Schwebach, PCEDC executive director.

Mary Ann Wise, co-owner of Cultural Cloth in Maiden Rock was on-hand to receive recognition as Small Business of the Year.

Wise and Jody Slocum, who co-founded the firm in 2009, are textile artists who wove custom rugs for the U.S. interior-design trade for over 15 years before opening their shop, according to information on their store's web site.

The pair both love to travel and subsequently directed that passion toward countries with "living textile traditions."

Cultural Cloth was founded to help Guatemalan textile artisans expand income-earning opportunities by accessing wider, international markets. Last year, they created an artisan-based non-profit organization that helps artisans earn money through "the sale of their exquisite hand work."

To support the non-profit, they lead an annual tour to learn from and to work alongside some of the artisans they represent. Today, the rug-hooking Wise and Slocum taught help 60 women earn a steady income through their craft.

Last year, the artisans' distinctive work helped Cultural Cloth earn an elite opportunity to display works at the International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe, N.M. The three-day market, whose July attendance is capped at 20,000 tickets, features just 150 booths. Last year, the Guatemalan "rug-hookers" shipped 252 rugs to the market and by its close, all but two had sold. The group won acceptance again for 2015 and the women plan to ship even more rugs to Santa Fe this July, Wise wrote in comments shared ahead of Thursday's presentation.

Learn more at http://culturalcloth.com/

During the business meeting portion of Thursday's PCEDC event, members also elected new leadership for 2015, including Blake Fry, president; Mark Huber, vice-president; Beth Hein, secretary-treasurer; and Larry Dokkestul, immediate past-president. Other members of the Executive Committee will include John Danneker, Wilson Mills and Russ Korpela.

For more please read the Jan. 28 print version of the Herald.