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Milwaukee, Wis. (May 21, 2018) – House Speaker Paul Ryan described Helen Johnson‐Leipold as someone who plays the long game, looking at the horizon and what makes life better, in running Johnson Outdoors Inc. and Johnson Financial Group.

“What is especially attractive about her skills and talents is how she so believes in people – the people she works with, the people she surrounds herself with, the people who make Johnson what it is today,” he said.

Ryan spoke Monday night at the Harvard Business School Club of Wisconsin Business Leader of the Year Dinner at the Pfister Hotel.

Johnson‐Leipold, chairman and chief executive officer of Johnson Outdoors and chairman of Johnson Financial Group., was this year's winner.

Johnson‐Leipold also is chairman of The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread and serves on the board of S.C. Johnson & Son Inc. and The Prairie School.

“This is a family that defined what it means to give back,” said Ryan, who has represented Racine, where the companies are based, in Congress for 20 years.

The Business Leader of the Year Award “celebrates an inspirational Wisconsin executive who has made significant contributions to both his or her organization and the community at large,” according to the Harvard Business School Club of Wisconsin.

Johnson Outdoors, which employs 1,100 people and had revenue of $491 million in 2017, manufactures and markets watercraft, marine electronics, diving equipment and outdoor gear. Its brands range from Old Town canoes to Humminbird marine electronics to Eureka camping and hiking equipment.

In accepting the award, Johnson‐Leipold directed much of the attention to her father and coworkers.

But she also talked about trust and innovation. “To me, trust is the currency of life,” Johhson‐Leipold said. “With it, all is possible. Without it, nothing is. It is the catalyst for growth and progress and the glue that holds you together in the tough times.”

She also described innovation as the lifeblood of business – and noted its connection to trust.

“Willingness to try new things can only happen if all of us, top to bottom of the company, have a deep level of trust and respect to each other,” she said.

Proceeds from the annual event pay for scholarships for leaders of nonprofit organizations in Wisconsin to attend specialized programs at Harvard Business School.

Three people were selected this year to attend a course on strategic perspectives in nonprofit management:

Jeff Martinka, executive director of Neighborhood House, was selected to attend a course on performance measurement for management.

Article by Guy Bolton | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel