April 25, 2008

HOF inductees had courage, desire to succeed

This year’s inductees into the Boulder County Business Hall of Fame have two things in common – the courage to take a giant leap of faith and the talent to run with it.

Peter D. Behrendt, Joan Brett, John Fenstermaker, Edwin Kanemoto, David M. Wyatt and the late Harlow C. Platts will be inducted into the Boulder County Business Hall of Fame on May 1.

The six inductees for the class of 2008 will be honored at the hall of fame’s 16th annual induction luncheon at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, May 1, at the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center in Longmont.

Peter D. Behrendt

Peter D. Behrendt learned the value of courage at an early age. As a high school student he escaped with his mother from East Germany in 1955.

After spending a year in a refugee camp in Berlin, they came to the U.S. where Behrendt attended Beverly Hills High School.

“Refugee camp to Beverly Hills High was a bit of culture shock but good preparation for transition from IBM to a startup,” Behrendt said.

In the 1970s Behrendt came to Boulder as an IBM executive. After 26 years with the company he took another leap of faith – to become president of a brand new startup called Exabyte Corp. During the next 15 years the company grew its annual revenues to $387 million.

Behrendt also became active at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He taught entrepreneurship and was chairman of the advisory board for the business school.

“I had the conviction that the business and engineering schools would be far more efficient in preparing students for the workplace if there were a close interaction between the university and the business community,” he said.

Today, Behrendt continues to actively seek out and advise startups from around the world including several local Colorado companies.

“Finding startups – identifying those with potential – is very much part of what I do, and I hope to be able to do this for many more years,” he said. “My involvement with the community is a form of payback for all the help I’ve gotten over the years from lots of different people.”

Joan Brett

Joan Brett’s giant leap of faith came when she transitioned from being a successful family law attorney to opening her own cooking school.

Since its humble beginnings 17 years ago in the kitchen of Brett’s home, the Culinary School of the Rockies has graduated 10,000 students from its basic cooking program and nearly 600 from its professional program, which started in 1996.

Brett and her team take a “farm-to-table” approach to cooking, using local foods and resources whenever possible. Brett has designed a special course in which students can spend time at local organic farms, connecting aspiring chefs with the source of their food supply.

She has connected the corporate world to cooking thanks to her “Corporate Kitchen” program, which brings together members of the business community to cook for a day.

“We’re always trying to do innovative things – it’s the key to our success,” she said.

For more than a decade Brett has been an active board member with organizations such as Community Food Share and Boulder County Safehouse.

“I feel that every person is and should be entitled to the basic needs, which are shelter and food,” she said. “Food security is critically important for development and education and quality of life. Whoever asks us, we’re always glad to donate, whether it’s food or auction items.”

John Fenstermaker

A true pioneer of Internet technology, John Fenstermaker worked for 32 years with IBM. During that time he helped break new ground and with every model of personal computer built by IBM from 1958 until his retirement from the company in 1990.

Fenstermaker said each day brought unexpected challenges.

“You never knew what was going to happen – whether we would run out of parts or have equipment breaking down,” he said. “You could never count on anything. There was always some risk that it would not work out.

Even with IBM and all its resources, there was never anything for certain, and that’s one of the things I liked about it. I liked that feeling of immediacy. You could get in there and solve problems right away.”

This gift for solving problems came in handy when Fenstermaker began serving on the board of the Longmont Industrial Park, helping to manage its properties and finances for nearly two decades. He also was instrumental in helping the St. Vrain Historical Society develop its computer system.

As for the key to his success, his answer is simple.

“My biggest asset has always been my wife, Betty,” he said. “When I was the breadwinner, she was taking care of the kids and doing a great job, and I didn’t have to worry about things. For 47 years she has been the single most important influence in my life.”

Harlow C. Platts

In 1919, after serving in France during World War I, Harlow C. Platts came home to Boulder to start working at the family business, Western Cutlery Company.

Originally from Sheffield, England, the Platts family brought their hometown cutlery industry to the U.S. and opened factories in New York and Pennsylvania. By 1911, the family business had moved to Boulder.

“It was one of the first real manufacturing businesses west of the Mississippi,´ said Harlow’s grandson, William Harlow Platts. “Harlow was in charge of running the plant and production, and his brother Reginald was in charge of sales.”

In 1953 Harlow and Reginald decided to split up their business interests in Boulder.

“They drew cards,” William said. “Reg ended up with the real estate business and Harlow with the cutlery business.”

Until his death in 1983, at the age of 90, Harlow Platts continued to be active in his business and the community. He worked on the city planning board and helped to bring such industries as IBM and Beach Aircraft to Boulder.

One key to his success was his sense of balance between his personal and professional life.

“Harlow had a real good business sense, but he wasn’t totally consumed by business,” William said. “He was well-balanced and liked nature and hunting and camping and fishing.”

Even at an advanced age, Harlow would go on rock collecting expeditions to find jade, which he would bring back and sculpt in his workshop at home.

“He was a real people person. He was very personable and outgoing, and he greatly valued personal relationships,” William said. “Keep a sense of balance in your life – that’s what I learned from him.”

David M. Wyatt

When David M. Wyatt moved to Boulder in 1970, he came seeking the same thing that has motivated countless other young local entrepreneurs – a better quality of life.

“I was looking for the possibility of a better life for my young family. I had two small children,” he said. “I became enamored of this area.”

That same year he started Wyatt Construction. It was during a time when the economy was in a recession.

Aided by his business savvy, he guided the company through its first decade, and soon several hundred Wyatt homes were constructed in the Boulder area, giving work to countless contractors.

In 1977 Wyatt decided to specialize in multifamily and commercial construction – an advantageous time, considering the growth of the new high-tech and data-storage industries developing throughout Boulder County.

During his time in Boulder, Wyatt has been involved with around a dozen different community organizations, ranging from arts organizations to medical and educational facilities.

“In all cases, they’ve been things I’ve felt strongly about and felt that I needed to be involved with,” he said.

He credits his success to the loyalty of not only his customers but also his employees, many of whom have been with him for several decades.

“I’ve had a lot of good, dedicated clients and customers who have supported me through the years, and it’s not because I’m such a wonderful person, but it’s because of the people who work for my organization,” he said.

“That’s what makes it work. I’m proud of my company and of the people who have been with me. It’s been a good opportunity, and we’ve filled a niche.”

Edwin Kanemoto

When Edwin Kanemoto joined his cousin Ken Kanemoto at Title Realty in Longmont in 1977, he made the transition from banking to brokering real estate.

He soon became involved in the development of Longmont itself, first by investing in properties, then by taking an active part in changing the direction of the local business community.

Working with his colleagues at EDAL (now the Longmont Area Economic Council), Kanemoto focused his attention on changing the city’s economic base by bringing more businesses to Longmont.

“I can remember a time when I thought that the best thing we could do for economic development in Longmont was to name it ‘East Boulder,'” he said. “We were able to create our own identity. We had a task force to determine the type of industry that Longmont would like to see, and we had some of the board members go to places like Silicon Valley to show them the benefits of moving to Longmont.”

Kanemoto has been influential in helping to bring major corporations such as Fujitsu and McLane Western to Longmont – all while continuing to serve as co-owner of Longmont’s largest real estate company, now known as Prudential Rocky Mountain Realtors. In addition, he has been an active force on the Longmont Board of Realtors, as well as Longmont United Hospital and the Longmont Chamber of Commerce.

He credits mentors such as local businessman Bayne Gibson and Realtor Judy Weinacht with helping him achieve his goals for the community. And, throughout his life, the influence of his family has been paramount.

“I was fortunate because when I started I had a family that was successful here – my dad and my uncle,” he said. “They set down some guidelines that they thought all of us children needed to follow. Now my biggest achievement has been the success of my own children.”

This year’s inductees into the Boulder County Business Hall of Fame have two things in common – the courage to take a giant leap of faith and the talent to run with it.

Peter D. Behrendt, Joan Brett, John Fenstermaker, Edwin Kanemoto, David M. Wyatt and the late Harlow C. Platts will be inducted into the Boulder County Business Hall of Fame on May 1.

The six inductees for the class of 2008 will be honored at the hall of fame’s 16th annual induction luncheon at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, May 1, at the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center in Longmont.

Peter D.…

Christopher Wood
Christopher Wood is editor and publisher of BizWest, a regional business journal covering Boulder, Broomfield, Larimer and Weld counties. Wood co-founded the Northern Colorado Business Report in 1995 and served as publisher of the Boulder County Business Report until the two publications were merged to form BizWest in 2014. From 1990 to 1995, Wood served as reporter and managing editor of the Denver Business Journal. He is a Marine Corps veteran and a graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder. He has won numerous awards from the Colorado Press Association, Society of Professional Journalists and the Alliance of Area Business Publishers.
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