FITCHBURG — Employees at Sub-Zero Group will be able to get a flu shot, a blood test or even an EKG without leaving the campus, thanks to an on-site health clinic that opened Tuesday.

The family-owned Fitchburg company — known for its high-end Sub-Zero refrigerators and Wolf ovens — has its own UW Health Clinic for use by employees and family members covered under the company’s Unity Health plans.

Staffed by a nurse practitioner and a medical assistant, the 3,400-square-foot clinic was built into a previously vacant part of the building that houses manufacturing of Sub-Zero’s built-in refrigeration units, 6041 Basswood Drive.

Chuck Verri, vice president of human resources, said the idea of an on-site clinic has been under discussion for several years as Sub-Zero officials mulled over how to “enhance the employee experience, control health care costs, and now, to give us a competitive advantage.”

The clinic is equipped with three fully outfitted examination rooms, a lab, medication room and even a room for handling urgent pediatric needs. UW Health pharmacy refills will be available, but there are no X-ray services and no physicians will be assigned there.

It’s the first on-site employee clinic for UW Health.

“Sub Zero has had a long-standing partnership with Unity Health Insurance and approached UW Health about forming a new partnership regarding an on-site clinic. We evaluate each request individually and with due diligence to ensure it is the best fit for patients and the organization,” said Pete Newcomer, UW Health chief clinical officer.

Verri said Sub-Zero officials visited on-site employee clinics elsewhere and hired a consultant to contact potential vendors before choosing UW Health. “They blew us away,” he said. “This is beyond what we were told, initially, we would need.”

He said clinic services will be free to employees and their covered family members; a $25 co-pay is required for visits to other UW Health clinics. He said patients’ health information will remain private.

Verri declined to say how many employees Sub-Zero has, but a company presentation to the city of Fitchburg in 2015 listed more than 1,000 employees in that community.

UW Health employer health services manager Lori Bue said the clinic, which will be open Monday through Friday, is designed to accommodate about 10 patients a day.

Sub-Zero also has set up an adjacent fitness center, with treadmills, exercise bikes, weight machines and a punching bag.

“If we’re going to talk about wellness and access to health care, we need to talk about total wellness,” Verri said.

Sub-Zero Group president and CEO Jim Bakke said the company tries to offer a competitive benefit package. “The new clinic will ensure that our employees and their families have access to convenient, cost-effective health care,” Bakke said. “Offering world-class benefits will ensure that we continue to attract the highly talented people we need for continued success as an organization.”

Jesse Buell, business agent and recording secretary for Sheet Metal Air Rail and Transportation Union Local 565 in Madison, which represents Sub-Zero Group manufacturing employees, said he thinks the new health clinic will be attractive to potential employees.

He said the union represents about 800 Sub-Zero and Wolf employees. Sub-Zero employees agreed to a new contract in 2016 that runs through 2025; it promises to keep the jobs here and to give annual raises, Buell said.

He said Sub-Zero employees represented by the union earn about $19 an hour to start, while Wolf employees make about $16 an hour in starting pay.

The company, which also has a manufacturing plant in the Phoenix area, announced in 2015 that it had decided to build a $62 million dishwasher factory in Fitchburg. Verri said the plant is completed, but Buell said it is not yet operating. The company had told Fitchburg officials it planned to hire 300 employees for the dishwasher division.

Founded in 1945, the third-generation, family-run company does not disclose annual revenue. But a July 2014 Fortune magazine article titled “13 Most American Companies” estimated the figure at $350 million.


Judy Newman is a business reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.