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Alpena loses an economic giant

We lost a giant this past week.

Ron Winter did more economically for Northeast Michigan than anyone else in the last 50 years. He built our region’s largest company from scratch to a total employment measuring hundreds more than the next-biggest concern.

He was graduated from Alpena High School following his elementary years in a one-room schoolhouse near Hubbard Lake. He served as an enlisted man in Vietnam. He went to college on the G.I. BIll at the University of Michigan, but it took a while to complete that education.

You see, there wasn’t much money, and so he’d work for a while to save up and then go to college for a while. He repeated that schedule until his education was completed.

Ron worked for Besser Co. for a relatively short period before he decided to start a business in his garage. It was a metal-working gig with Ron and two others doing the work.

Ron described it to me as 16 to 20 hours every day for some years. Ron was nothing if not determined.

By all odds, by all statistics on startups, that endeavor should have failed in the early years. Those odds and stats just didn’t know Ron.

He turned the economic corner and established dozens of companies across northern Michigan and other states. He hired hundreds of principal family breadwinners across our northern communities. He was the major entrepreneurial figure in our area of the last 60 years.

No one sponsored Ron’s success except Ron himself. If ever there was a tale of overcoming nearly impossible obstacles to succeed in the end, then that story is about Ron.

Ron would be uneasy to read those kinds words about him. His early gambles and sacrifices, coupled with his ability and determination, have resulted in hundreds of families in our area prospering with jobs in their hometowns.

He was a giant. He was large in stature. He was large in intellect. He was large in determination and drive.

A great guy and an absolutely fabulous success story for all of us.

He was my friend and I miss him terribly.

“Well done, thou good and faithful servant!”

Stephen H. Fletcher is a former columnist for The Alpena News.

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