Don’t forget what got you there

Story by Nick Erickson, Staff Writer

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People don’t simply stumble upon success. That’s not how the world works. People get to be the way they are because of their work ethics, intelligence and especially past experiences.

I think that in today’s society of bright lights and paparazzi, we often see successful people lose sight of the fact that their past experiences had a lot to do with why they are at the level they are at today.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t those that do show their appreciation for the people and places that helped them ascend to success, and it’s those kind of people that I think the world could see more.

I was reminded that these people do indeed exist two weeks ago when JAMF Software co-founder Zach Halmstad and his company donated $500,000 to the Confluence Project to build a music and performing arts hall in downtown Eau Claire.

Halmstad grew up in Eau Claire, and after attending North High School, he came to his hometown university to double major in music and computer science. He said he was very involved with the music program at UW-Eau Claire and that the city’s musical life helped shape him and gave him fond memories throughout his life.

He co-founded JAMF Software in 2002 and the company has grown immensely since. It has grown from four employees at its start to 178 current employees and now operates in five locations worldwide.

According to their website, they are the only company to develop Mac and iOS management software exclusively for the Apple platform.

Needless to say, Halmstad has found success in his software company. But this donation, which he announced in front of a standing-room-only crowd on March 13 at the State Theater, showed me that he knows he had help getting there.

While his musical background may not be directly aiding his expanding software company, he said it played a very important role in his time in Eau Claire and that he wanted to give back to the city that helped shape the person he has become.

“The music scene in Eau Claire was so great and so nurturing to me, and we see this as a way to continue to embrace that culture in our
community,” Halmstad said.

He has also helped his alma mater by hiring many Eau Claire graduates, as 35 percent of his employees are former Blugolds, and he has also started an internship program with the university.

“We are very strong believers in the liberal arts education at Eau Claire,” he said. “Our relationship has been phenomenal (with the
university).”

Sometimes, a quick rise to the top can make people forget the people and places in their past.
We often don’t see high-profile and wealthy people put the public first and themselves second. At the very least, we don’t see it garner the same attention as a selfish person or group in the same position.

Earlier this year, hockey fans had to wait and watch the National Hockey League delay their season because they couldn’t find a way to split millions of dollars evenly.

We see big businesses have the ultimate say in things because they do not want to give up their money that could go directly back to the public.

It’s a shame, really, because as Halmstad showed two weeks ago, a generous donation can ignite pride and excitement. The atmosphere was buzzing around the State Theater, and all I saw coming out of that venue were smiles and glimmers of hope streaking across everyone’s faces.

I wish that Halmstad’s act was the kind that would linger on the news for several days and then everybody would know his name and his company’s name.

I believe people like him can inspire others to give back to the places that help them become successful. As the upward progress of the Confluence Project now shows, a generous hand can go a long, long way.

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