Regional Roundup

Posted on Jan 30, 2019 :: Regional Roundup
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

interstate 41 Corridor

Brown, Calumet, Outagamie, Winnebago, Fond du Lac Counties

Shopko files for bankruptcy, announces store closures

Shopko filed for bankruptcy and is closing 105 stores, including 16 in Wisconsin
and seven in the New North, as part of its restructuring efforts.

The Ashwaubenon-based retailer announced it received $480 million in financing from lenders to fund and protect its operations while it goes through the bankruptcy process. Shopko also requested a federal bankruptcy court in Nebraska allow it to pay wages, salaries and benefits.

Shopko will close the following Northeast Wisconsin locations:

  • Military Road, Green Bay
  • Calumet Avenue, Manitowoc
  • Appleton Road, Menasha
  • Green Bay Road, Neenah
  • Shopko Hometown, Seymour
  • Shopko Express, Evergreen Drive, Appleton
  • Shopko Express, Van Roy Road, Buchanan

“This decision is a difficult, but necessary one,” CEO Russ Steinhorst said in a news release. “In a challenging retail environment, we have had to make some very tough choices, but we are confident that by operating a smaller and more focused store footprint, we will be able to build a stronger Shopko that will better serve our customers, vendors, employees and other stakeholders through this process.”


K-C reveals shutdown date for Neenah Nonwovens plant

A year after Kimberly-Clark Corp. placed its Neenah Nonwovens facility on a list of plants it planned to close, the consumer products manufacturer has announced the site will close March 31.

Headquartered in Dallas, K-C notified the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development that 74 people will lose their jobs when the plant, which manufactures non-woven fabric products, closes. The employees will leave in stages between mid-March and the end of May.

Originally, K-C included the Cold Spring plant in Fox Crossing on its list of sites being closed as part of its global restructuring efforts, but the manufacturer changed course in mid-December after receiving a $28 million tax incentive from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.

The Fox Valley Workforce Development Board is leading a rapid response effort for the employees losing their jobs. The organization is working with local K-C leadership to schedule an employee outreach session, which will include an overview of the services offered through the board and at the local job center, as well as information on unemployment insurance. The employees also will be evaluated for job readiness and begin the process of finding their next role.

“Nearly every employer along the I-41 corridor is seeking skilled labor to fill their open positions and many of these employees will no doubt find new roles very quickly,” said Anthony Snyder, CEO of the Fox Valley Workforce Development Board. “Our first step will be to evaluate them on their skills, determine if any are eligible for retraining programs and then work with them individually to create fresh résumés and plan a job search strategy.”

Depending on the needs of the 74 permanently laid-off employees, the Fox Valley Workforce Development Board and the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development may offer basic computer classes or a private job fair. The board also may enroll them in a number of more significant training programs paid for by the Workforce Innovation
and Opportunity Act, a federal program of the U.S. Department of Labor created to serve eligible adults, youth and dislocated workers.


The Lakeshore

Door, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Sheboygan Counties

Acuity Insurance reaches record revenue in 2018

Fueled in part by $255 million in new business, Acuity reached an all-time high $1.542 billion of revenue in 2018, an increase exceeding $100 million over 2017, or 7.2 percent.

“For the past 19 years, Acuity has consistently grown faster than the insurance industry,” said Acuity President and CEO Ben Salzmann. “Our growth shows that Acuity is trusted by more individuals, families, and businesses than ever before to protect what matters. It also shows that we are a strong, stable market for independent agents.”

The Sheboygan-based insurer doubled its top-line revenue in the past eight years and is ranked as the 56th largest of 2,600 property-casualty insurance companies in the nation. Its ninth-straight year of premium expansion came from balanced growth across personal and commercial lines and throughout its entire operating territory.

In personal lines, Acuity surpassed $400 million in written premium and achieved a 22nd consecutive year of growth. Customer retention also is at an all-time high. In commercial lines, it achieved growth across all key areas of focus — construction, trucking, manufacturing, retail and services businesses. Additionally, commercial auto continued to increase and remains Acuity’s largest and fastest-growing line of business.


Orion Energy receives $3.6M federal contract

Orion Energy Systems Inc., a Manitowoc-based manufacturer and marketer of LED lighting and energy project solutions, received a $3.6 million contract to install the company’s LED lighting products in two U.S. government facilities.

Orion will replace legacy T5, T8, compact fluorescent and HID lighting systems with its energy-efficient lighting platforms and controls. The installation will help the customers reach their environmental, energy efficiency and cost savings goals, says Orion CEO Mike Altschaefl. Orion previously completed other projects for the clients.

“We believe these follow-on projects underscore the performance, return on investment and customer responsiveness that is unique to the Orion Lighting organization,” Altschaefl said in a release. “Utilizing our solutions, these customers expect to reduce annual energy usage for lighting by approximately 50 percent per facility while also delivering much improved illumination. These savings should allow the full recoupment of all project costs in just a few years, followed by two decades of continued savings and high performance.”

In addition, the company has secured a letter of intent with an existing customer to retrofit several of the customer’s locations with its LED lighting solutions. Orion expects to realize revenue of approximately $11 million under the letter of intent.

A significant portion of the installations are expected to be completed in Orion’s fiscal 2019 fourth quarter ending March 31. Orion’s products include LED solid state lighting and high-intensity fluorescent lighting.


West Central

Shawano, Waupaca, Waushara, Marquette, Green Lake Counties

Waupaca Foundry to open Upper Peninsula plant

Waupaca Foundry, a Hitachi Metals company, is expanding operations into Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and will open a new facility in Ironwood to process iron castings produced at its plants in Waupaca.

Waupaca Foundry plans to invest $4.3 million and acquire an existing 50,000-square-foot facility in Ironwood. The Michigan Business Development Program awarded Waupaca Foundry a $1.2 million performance-based grant. The new facility will create 61 new jobs.

The expansion addresses increasing customer demand and adds iron casting processing capabilities, including cleaning and finishing, in a location where there is sufficient labor supply, Waupaca Foundry Executive Vice President John Wiesbrock said in a release.

“The economy is strong, and Waupaca Foundry is growing due to increased customer demand for cast and machined iron castings. Opening a facility to handle cleaning and finishing of cast parts will allow us to meet customers’ expectations in quality and delivery of their parts,” he said.

Prior to choosing a new location, Waupaca Foundry leaders conducted exploratory job fairs and identified a strong pool of motivated, talented workers in the Gogebic County region. In December, the Ojibway Correctional Facility closed, leaving many area workers jobless.

Waupaca Foundry has already hired and on-boarded more than 35 new team members from the Upper Peninsula who are currently working full-time in Waupaca while the new facility is preparing for production.


The Northwoods

Florence, Marinette, Menominee, Oconto Counties

Marinette Marine receives $5M grant to deepen harbor

Fincantieri Marinette Marine received a $5 million grant to create additional depth in its harbor to provide the necessary room for the manufacturer to build larger vessels.

The $5 million grant comes from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s 2019 Harbor Assistance Program, which awarded a total of $7.2 million for five harbor maintenance and improvement projects around Wisconsin. The award to Marinette Marine was the largest one made during the 2019 grant cycle.

The $5 million will be used to dredge 20,000 cubic yards of soft sediment and 10,000 cubic yards of hard sediment to create more depth in Marinette Marine’s harbor. The dredging is part of the marine manufacturer’s three-year, multiphase $100 million shipyard improvement project to accommodate the construction of larger vessels.

Elsewhere in the New North, St. Marys Cement Inc. in Brown County received a $103,100 grant through the Harbor Assistance Program to replace a failed bollard. St Marys delivers 52,000 tons of cement annually to the Green Bay terminal. The repair will prevent loads from being diverted to Manitowoc and unnecessary wear on highways since trucks need to return the cement to Green Bay.