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BEST Awards host in Gays Mills
May 15 in Community Commerce Center
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BEST, a regional economic development organization working in Southwest Wisconsin, is celebrating the 12th Annual BEST Conference “Fields of Green: Rural Entrepreneurism” on Tuesday, May 15 in the Gays Mills Community Commerce Center.

This year a tour of three regional businesses will be held before the conference.

• BAPI (Building Automation Products Inc.) in Gays Mills is a high-tech business designing environmental sensors for use in the HVAC industry. BAPI is a past recipient of the BEST award for Established Entrepreneur. All BAPI products are designed, engineered and manufactured at their rural Wisconsin facility.

• Star Valley Flowers in Soldiers Grove is a cut flower operation that grows anything, but the ordinary. They have found a niche by producing specialty cut flowers, especially woody ornamentals and perennials. They have 165 acres in production and are the largest field-grown cut flower producer in the Midwest.

 • Roth Fresh Farms in Boscobel is a different kind of farm. They are exploring ways to grow fish and plants in a symbiotic relationship whereby the fish waste is used to provide nutrients to plants and plants filter and clean the water for fish. Raising fish is called aquaculture and raising plants in water is called hydroponics. When you combine the two you have aquaponics. 

The lunch keynote speaker will be Cecil Wright. Wright is the vice president of sustainability and local operations for Organic Valley.

The conference will offer attendees a variety of educational opportunities focusing on regional rural entrepreneurialism in foods, tourism and services, and manufacturing. Breakout sessions will focus on the creative economy: creativity, innovation, imagination, and entrepreneurship. There is growing interest from local administrators and elected officials, as well as economic and community development professionals, about pursuing coordinated, strategic efforts to boost the “creative economy” locally and regionally.

The education portion of the conference will wrap up with a dinner and presentation of the BEST Awards. Award categories include:

• Lifetime Commitment to the Region

• Regional Collaboration

• New Regional Entrepreneur (less than 3years)

• Regional Economy Builder

• Regional Entrepreneur (3 years or older)

• Agribusiness Innovation

• Women in Business

• Doers of Stuff (New Category) – What person or organization do you know that can always be counted on to get stuff done?

• BEST Key Innovation in Education

• BEST Regional Collaboration

• BEST Community Builder Award

• BEST Regional Champion

• BEST Regional Youth Program

Registration can be done online at If you register for a full day before May 1, you get a discount of $5. Simply click on enter discount code, enter the phrase EarlyBird and select Validate. As always, the second member in a group receives a $10 discount. Simply click on enter discount code, enter the phrase Group and select Validate.