Fresh from working with a start-up business in Portugal, a young Peter Connor ’95 got a call from his father, Gordon Connor ’59, asking him to work for three months on a project at the family’s lumber business in Forest County. “I told him I would come, but I was leaving my luggage in New York,” Connor recalls. Now, 21 years later, Connor is the vice president at Nicolet Hardwoods in Laona, Wisconsin, and has added the title of president of WD Flooring, a hardwood-flooring manufacturer. He’s the fifth generation of his family to run the lumber business, which began in the 1880s.
One of the reasons Connor stayed was the challenge of transitioning the family company to meet the technological revolution in the lumber business. “My liberal arts education was a fantastic foundation to move forward with what I do today,” says Connor, a 1995 graduate who majored in English literature. “I achieved an analytical perspective in bringing in lots of information, distilling it to its core, and analyzing how it fits in a business application.”
“My liberal arts education was a fantastic foundation to move forward with what I do today. I achieved an analytical perspective in bringing in lots of information, distilling it to its core, and analyzing how it fits in a business application.”
Connor chose UW–Madison because he was seeking a broad experience. “You had to communicate with people from different backgrounds,” he says. “That helps me today because you never know when you’ll need help or where that help will come from.”
Nicolet Hardwoods produces hardwood lumber for kitchen-cabinet makers, sports flooring, and pallets for other manufacturers. WD Flooring, which takes its name from Connor’s great-grandfather W.D. Connor, turns out flooring that’s been used in homes and buildings worldwide. Nicolet Hardwoods harvests timber from 40,000 acres of forests that have been managed since the late 1800s. The firms together employ about 150 people. “The most rewarding aspect of what I’m able to do is to effect real change,” Connor says, “and to be part of a company and community that has a great history and move it forward.”
Thank you, Forest County, for Peter Connor — and for his family who have built a long-lasting, thriving business that contributes to the Wisconsin Northwoods economy.