OK kids, time to jump in the way-back machine!
The year is 1978. Those of us lucky enough to be walking Mother Earth at the time were dancing (Grease), laughing (National Lampoon’s Animal House), and having the bejeezus scared out of us by Michael Myers (Halloween) at the movie theaters. The Bee Gees ruled the radio waves, as disco regrettably took temporary control of the music world. If you were rocking corduroy overalls and wedge boots, you were at the height of fashion. The video game craze was just getting off the ground with the launch of Space Invaders. Gas was $.63 cents a gallon and a stamp cost $.13 cents.
On November 30th of that same year, a young man heard through the grapevine that Consolidated Construction was hiring. He applied for a job, landed it, and began what would become an exemplary 40-year career with the company.
That young man was Todd Schnetzer, and he joined the Consolidated team straight out of high school. Rick Novotny assigned him to a steel crew, where Todd spent 14 years plying his trade and accumulating knowledge, while rising to the level of sub-foreman. It was a good job that he enjoyed, but it wasn’t his passion. That’s when opportunity knocked and Schnetzer answered.
“I was always into cars,” Todd noted. “I really enjoyed my tech and mechanics classes in high school. After I got out of school, I started racing limited late model stock cars at tracks in Kaukauna, Shawano, and Luxemburg. Fixing things is what I love to do, so when a position opened up at Consolidated for a fabricator and mechanic, I went for it.”
He went for it indeed, just as he did as a stock car driver. Todd competed in late model races for the better part of six years and modestly admitted to winning his share of contests. After hanging up his driving gloves, he worked as a member of pit crews on late model stock cars (the fastest level of stock car racing in the state) for another 25 years. He also satisfied his competitive nature by racing SuperMod snowmobiles for 20 years. Todd finished his racing career with several Eagle River Class Championships and the coveted SnoPro Series Championship. He was honored by having his name engraved on the SnoPro trophy at the Snowmobile Hall of Fame in St. Germain, WI.
Todd got that job, and since that fateful day, “The Shop” at Consolidated has been his home away from home. There was, however, a brief moment in time when it almost came to an abrupt end.
“I was offered a warehouse job with another company, so I came in and gave Rick Novotny my two-week notice. He wouldn’t accept it. He told me I’d hate working there, said we’d talk the next day, and to get the heck out of his office,” Schnetzer said with a chuckle. “We never did talk the next day. He saw me a couple days later and said, ‘I guess you’re staying.’ I said I guess I am. And that was the end of that.”
Fast forward to 2018, and Todd celebrated his 40th anniversary with Consolidated Construction on November 30th. In some ways, it’s a very different place than it was in 1978.
“You have to remember we were mainly building big metal boxes at the time I started, so we did the drywall, masonry, and some other things in house,” he said. “We subcontracted out the electrical and plumbing, but most of the rest we pretty much did ourselves. Today, that’s hard to do. The buildings are so much more complex and specialized labor is hard to come by.”
In 2006, ownership transitioned from the Novotny family to a group of four employee majority shareholders. As he recalls, “The biggest thing that changed was the market. The economy went in the tank shortly after the transition. I give ownership a lot of credit. They did what they had to do to keep us competitive.”
In some of the most important ways, Consolidated is very much the same as it was in 1978.
“One thing that never changed from when the Novotny’s owned the company to when Rick, Pam, Mark, and Jim took over is how friendly everyone is,” said Todd. “I’ve made so many friends at Consolidated over the years…some of my best friends in life.
Schnetzer’s contributions certainly have not gone unnoticed. As Consolidated CEO Rick Bickert observed, “I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Todd for 17 years, and during any encounter with him—whether work related or sharing personal stories—I have always had a positive experience. Todd is a role model for all of us. His positive outlook and willingness to help all who cross his path defines CCC’s Commitment statement and is something we all can learn from.”
Schnetzer will soon be cutting back his hours and spending more time pursuing the things he loves. Quality time with family is high on the priority list. If it can be done outdoors, count Todd in. He loves to hunt waterfowl and deer, and has taken trips to Canada for the past 30 years. He also enjoys walleye fishing on local waters.
“They say everyone is replaceable,” said Bickert. “Well, if that really is true, when the time comes, filling Todd’s shoes is going to be a tough act to follow! His dedication and service to Consolidated is an inspiration to each of us every day.”