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Seeing Possibilities: Forest County

Gordon Connor ’59 ran Connor Forest Industries in Forest County.

Gordon Connor and son

The career of Gordon P. Connor ’59 was shaped by the ability to move strategically.

He was three years old when his father moved the family from northern Wisconsin to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to build a mill for the family business, Connor Forest Industries. He absorbed the tenets of running a successful business as he grew up. When he left home, it was to study engineering at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where he graduated in 1959.

His education continued at Harvard, where he earned his business degree and started his career in banking. But he soon returned to Wisconsin and founded a kitchen cabinet business for Connor Forest Industries.

Within a few years, the success of that business led to new responsibilities: he became executive vice president of Connor Forest Industries, with responsibilities for sawmills and timberlands, flooring, and kitchen cabinets.

He absorbed the tenets of running a successful business as he grew up.

Bold moves followed. He was instrumental in the acquisition of the Ford Motor Company timberlands in 1966. Connor Forest Industries also expanded the business in other ways, buying a toy company and a plywood veneer operation.

With his background in engineering from UW–Madison, Connor led efforts to create new products. The company won patents on its flooring systems, and by the 1970s, Connor Forest Industries was the market leader in sports flooring.

Gordon Connor became the company’s CEO, and the name G.P. Connor became synonymous with sports flooring. He represented the fourth generation of his family’s business, and it grew tremendously under his watch.

A lifelong athlete, Connor is known as an avid angler and hunter, a Birkebeiner cross-country skier, and a downhill skier and tennis player. He and his Norwegian wife, Sigrid Irlin Connor, raised four children, and the family has been active not just in business, but in civic life and positively impacting the entire northern Wisconsin area.

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