The Smart Business Dealmakers Dealmaker of the Year Awards recognize exceptional individuals who are shaping the landscape of business and innovation in Milwaukee.

In addition, The Milwaukee Hall of Fame is recognizing a dealmaker who has made an often-groundbreaking impact on their organizations, industries and the region over the course of decades in business.

We celebrated the accomplishments of the 2024 class of winners on May 2 at the Milwaukee Smart Business Dealmakers Conference. Together, they provide a strong picture of the Milwaukee business community.


Dealmaker Of The Year Honorees


Todd Asmuth is the president and Chief Strategy Officer of SHINE Technologies, a nuclear technology company focused on applications of fusion, including the manufacture of medical isotopes to diagnose and treat heart disease and cancer. The firm also does neutron imaging of components for aerospace and defense companies. This past October, Asmuth and his team raised $88 million of growth capital from sources including Fidelity Management & Research, Ballie Gifford and the University of Wisconsin.


Jim Frings is the chairman and CEO of G3 Industries. He is a serial entrepreneur and investor who has built a business ecosystem that spans four continents in the areas of manufacturing, real estate, investment and development, and software. He has also founded three private equity firms, including Wisconsin River Partners, which has been active over the past few years. Last June, WRP acquired SUN Printing through an LBO. It also acquired Heyman Printing & Green Bay Blue last year.


Gale Klappa is the executive chairman of WEC Energy Group Inc., one of the nation’s premier energy companies, serving nearly 4.7 million electric and natural gas customers in Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota. He joined Wisconsin Energy as president in April 2003. Under his leadership, the company successfully completed its 2015 acquisition of Integrys Energy Group, at which time he assumed those same roles for WEC Energy Group. Klappa served as non-executive chairman of WEC Energy Group after retiring as CEO in May 2016. In October 2017, Klappa resumed the role of chairman and CEO to provide leadership and continuity following a medical setback that sidelined his successor. In February of this year, WEC Energy Group completed a $123 million debt financing round to continue its growth.


Scott Lauber is the CEO of WEC Energy Group and a key board member of the Wisconsin Public Service Foundation. He has been instrumental for more than 30 years in helping grow WEC, its subsidiaries, and the WPS Foundation. Lauber was named president and CEO of WEC Energy Group and appointed to the board of directors in February 2022. In these roles, Lauber is responsible for business operations for WEC Energy Group’s utilities in Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota. In November 2022, Lauber led a $300 million debt financing round to help spur WEC continued growth, which has included acquisitions and organic growth.


Frank Powell is the president of Managecore and a partner in the company. Managecore provides cloud hosting services intended to offer SAP and IT-managed services. In March, the company was acquired by Protera Technologies via its financial sponsor Pamlico Capital.


Dealmakers Hall of Fame Inductee


Kurt Heikkinen is the CEO of Forj, a market-leading community and learning SaaS solution purpose-built for associations and professional networks. The Forj team comprises experts obsessed with delivering a meaningful member experience. Forj has over 300 clients and 1 million professionals leveraging their solution to grow and advance their careers. 

Heikkinen is:

  • Respected and gracious servant leader to his colleagues and family.
  • Highly regarded SaaS CEO: 92 percent Glassdoor rating and eNPS scores exceeding industry averages.
  • GTM Scale-up Executive. A proven track-record of 35 percent-plus YoY growth across multiple companies with more than $100 million exit.
  • Product Innovator: SaaS new category creator and market expert leading teams to not only meet but anticipate the needs of modern users. Led both startup and global teams from $50 million - $1 billion in revenue.
  • M&A Leader: Designed, developed and executed on several mergers and acquisitions, exponentially increasing company multiples.
  • Board Advisor: Leverages his broad SaaS CEO expertise to serve as an adviser to several Midwest startups.