Ron Wanek Defends Free Enterprise, Promotes Community Stewardship During Manufacturing Hall of Fame Induction
Ashley Furniture Industries Founder Becomes First Modern-Era Inductee, Joining 78 Other Wisconsin Titans of Industry

MADISON, Wis. – Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) – the combined state chamber and manufacturers’ association – reestablished the Manufacturing Hall of Fame last month by naming Ron Wanek as the first inductee since the 1970s.

Wanek founded Arcadia Furniture in 1970 in the small western Wisconsin town of Arcadia. In 1982, Arcadia Furniture and Ashley Furniture Corp. merged into Ashley Furniture Industries. Today, Ashley has grown to become the world’s largest manufacturer of home furnishings, with over 30,000,000 square feet of worldwide manufacturing and distribution capacity, and Ashley retail locations throughout the United States and in 67 countries. Ashley employs 16,000 people in the United States, including nearly 3,000 in Wisconsin.

The induction ceremony was held on Feb. 22 at the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee as part of the annual Wisconsin Manufacturer of the Year Awards. WMC’s predecessor organization, Wisconsin Manufacturers’ Association, honored individuals who made significant contributions to the state’s industrial history starting in the 1950s, but it suspended the program in 1970.

WMC, in partnership with First Business Bank, made the decision to reconstitute it in order to showcase Wisconsin’s continuing manufacturing legacy and future opportunities.

“It is a pleasure to be here with you all tonight and to accept this award from such an exceptional organization,” Wanek said at the top of his speech. “I am deeply honored and humbled to be inducted into the Wisconsin Manufacturing Hall of Fame.”

He spoke at length about the importance of the free enterprise system and how it powered the growth of Ashley Furniture Industries.

"What fueled our success, above all else, is the power of free enterprise,” Wanek added. “Free enterprise provides the foundation for innovation, competition, and growth. It empowers individuals to take risks, follow their dreams, and create opportunities that benefit not only businesses but also the communities around them.”

Later, he highlighted how he and his wife, Joyce, have given back to the local community of Arcadia, in addition to numerous other philanthropic projects.

“With great wealth comes great responsibility. It is through the wealth created by free enterprise that we have the means to support philanthropic efforts and make a positive impact on society,” Wanek remarked. “At Ashley Furniture, we have made it a priority to give back to our communities through charitable initiatives, supporting STEM education, advancing medical research, supporting our armed forces, and other essential causes. By sharing our success, we aim to create a ripple effect of positive change that reaches far beyond our company's walls.”

In recognition of the honor, Sen. Ron Johnson and Congressman Derrick Van Orden read statements into the Congressional Record.

WMC also produced a video recognizing Wanek’s lifetime of achievements and commitment to manufacturing.

Please see the links below for more information about the Wisconsin Manufacturing Hall of Fame:

Ron Wanek Hall of Fame Induction Video

Ron Wanek Acceptance & Remarks Video

Source: Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce