In 1972, a group of parents and special educators including Dorothy Balliet, founder, joined together to form Columbia County Adult Work Activity Center for the purpose of providing meaningful activity and socialization experiences to adults with diverse abilities. In 1975, it was incorporated as a 501(c)3 non- profit and located in the basement of a local church.

In 1986, Jeff Aerts, was hired as the President and CEO. Under his direction, the focus of the program changed from socialization and recreation to vocational skills training. Real work procured from local businesses was utilized as a training device. The corporate name changed to Columbian Industries of Portage Incorporated. Through the years, Jeff and the Director of Rehabilitation, Carol Aerts, developed numerous programs to assist individuals with increasing independence within their homes, work settings, and communities. In 1995, the corporate name changed again to Northwoods Incorporated of Wisconsin. Jeff retired in 2018.Today, Northwoods Incorporated of Wisconsin remains a 501(c)3 non-profit, Community Based Rehabilitation Program dedicated to serve the needs of adults with diverse abilities, seniors, and families within a multi-county area in South Central Wisconsin. Northwoods proudly works with over 300 individuals and families annually by providing an array of quality and comprehensive service programs geared to promote independence, choice, and personal success.