Tom Still

CLAIRE – Zach Halmstad doesn’t come across as the classic company executive.
He’s 30-something, inclined to dress “software casual” and doesn’t seem
compelled to prove he’s the smartest person in the room.

unassuming Halmstad is nonetheless the co-founder of a company – JAMF Software
– that is helping to transform his hometown of Eau Claire, Wis., through
information technology, jobs and a commitment to community.

also evidence that tech-based companies can arise in many Wisconsin cities, not
just the metropolitan centers of Milwaukee and Madison.

Software provides information management tools for major enterprises –
companies, schools and governments – that use Apple products such as Mac, iPad
and iPhone devices. Its lead product, the Casper Suite, has grown from managing
2,500 computers to more than 3 million devices spread across 4,000 customers.

company has about 150 employees in Eau Claire, another 100 in Minneapolis, and
a dozen or so in each of five offices: Cupertino, Calif., New York City,
Amsterdam, Sydney and Hong Kong.

Read this column in the Wisconsin State Journal here.

a bad global reach for the son of teachers who grew up in Eau Claire, and who
freely admits he graduated from UW-Eau Claire with a music degree on “the
eight-year plan” while he and others launched the company.

2002 until 2007, JAMF Software was basically a hand-to-mouth startup in which
no one was paid with anything more tangible than late-night pizza and lots of
coffee. In fact, Halmstad had another full-time job until 2004 while completing
his degree and working on JAMF “in any free minute that I had.”

recently to the board of directors for the Wisconsin Technology Council in Eau
Claire, Halmstad described a company that has grown sharply since 2010 by
focusing on customer service and employee retention through pay and benefit
packages that attract and grow talent.

first, most people doubted Halmstad could find and keep a software workforce in
Eau Claire. One skeptic told Halmstad that he and three other early employees
would be the only ones they would find to work for them in this university town
of nearly 70,000 people.

the company got to its first 20 employees and then eventually 50 in Eau Claire,
people said – once again – that Halmstad must have found every possible hire.

we’re at a spot at 150 people (in the Eau Claire office), where we’re not
hearing that anymore,” Halmstad joked.

existing downtown offices and plans to build a $12-million space, also
downtown, Halmstad said he’s having little trouble finding strong employees
because they enjoy the setting as well as the work.

It’s why JAMF Software has
supported the Confluence Project, a public-private
center at the merger of the Eau Claire and Chippewa rivers. The project would
include a commercial and retail complex as well as UW-Eau Claire student


finding people here who are very talented and very motivated,” Halmstad
said, noting that nearly 120 of JAMF’s employees came out of UW-Eau Claire,
with more from UW-Stout in nearby Menomonie and Chippewa Valley Technical
College in Eau Claire.


of (JAMF’s support for the Confluence Project) is recruiting for us,” Halmstad
said. “We can pay people a great salary at JAMF, but it’s not the only thing
that attracts people. People want to move to a city that they want to actually
live in.”

Software isn’t alone among emerging software and information technology
companies that have found a home in Wisconsin. Epic Systems and its 7,000-plus
employees in Verona is the national leader in electronic health records. Other
examples include Cray Inc. in Chippewa Falls, Renaissance Learning in Wisconsin
Rapids; Skyward in Stevens Point; Plexus and Aver Informatics in the Fox
Valley; Connecture, PKWARE and Zywave in Milwaukee; and Singlewire and a host
of emerging companies – especially in health information and gaming – in the Madison

has also landed offices from major companies such as Google, Microsoft, CDW,
Zendesk and Dell, as well as a distribution center for Amazon. Investors from
outside the state are paying increased attention, as well.

Wisconsin economy of 2014 is far more diversified than the Wisconsin of 2002,
when Halmstad and JAMF were living on pizza and coffee. The state may never
become the next Silicon Valley, but it’s not languishing in its Rustbelt image,