STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAU) -- Insurance and services for travelers are in higher demand, and that’s good news for a Stevens Point company. The Noel Group was acquired earlier this year by Berkshire Hathaway, and founder John Noel says they have been growing by leaps and bounds since then.
Founder John Noel is pleasantly surprised by the rapid growth. “We have been growing. We grew 15 jobs in the first quarter. We grew 60 jobs in the second quarter. This quarter, we’ll grow 100 jobs.” He adds, “We expected a modest increase in our volume and customer base, but since that happened, it is just unbelievable. We more than doubled our size in six months.”
Noel says they will need to find solutions to some problems. One of them is their long-term space needs, and the other one he hopes government can help with is parking problems in downtown Stevens Point. “We want to throw that out to the Governor and his staff because we believe that if there was some way for the state to find money, grants, help in building parking ramps in these small communities, that it would bring more jobs into the community. The spin off of that would create more economic growth.” Downtown parking issues are nothing new, and Noel is familiar with them. When he ran Travelguard Insurance from the same location, parking was a problem. “The big problem that we are having already is parking. When we built Travelguard up to 850 employees in the early 2000’s, we had 850 employees and people were parking 4 and 5 blocks away in the cold winter. That’s just not very enjoyable, and we would lose employees because of it.”
Noel says the company has grown so rapidly, they are leasing part of the former Travel Guard building from Portage County for two years to give their call center enough space. Even with that two-year lease, Noel says that buys them very little time to develop a permanent space solution. “It gives us about three months, because we have to be up and running and ready to go two years from now, which means we have to do a lot of planning and construction activity in order to accomplish an office building ready to take us in two years.”
Noel says a great deal of strategic planning has to be completed before they decide on a future building lease or construction project. The company will also have to predict growth at a time when they are adding new jobs at a record pace.
(Listen to our interview with John Noel on our website, here.)