For the community historically known as Sawdust City, there’s sure to be a lot of sawdust flying around in 2020 with multiple developments either finishing up or on the horizon.
Oshkosh’s largest economic development project — the new global headquarters for Oshkosh Corp. — opened in November 2019. The 191,000-square-foot building sits on Lake Butte des Morts just off Interstate 41 on the site of a former municipal golf course. An estimated 550 employees — gathered from multiple sites in Oshkosh — are now at the new headquarters. The building has capacity for 650.
“We really wanted to foster a collaborative environment here,” says Oshkosh Corp. CEO Wilson Jones. “Before, we were scattered all over Oshkosh in different locations, and it’s great to be under one roof … the energy is amazing.”
Jones says the building’s open design — all the offices are on the building’s interior away from the massive windows — has plenty of collaborative spaces for employees to meet and discuss projects.
Jason White, CEO of the Greater Oshkosh Economic Development Corp., says the new headquarters is a big deal for the city.
“While that project was important for retaining our Fortune 500 company, it was also important because it really impacted the image and how people view Oshkosh,” he says. “It has a ripple effect and it helps every employer.”
Oshkosh Corp. also donated $600,000 to the city to construct a lighted trail adjacent to the building that connects the path over I-41 and the Oshkosh Riverwalk.
Oshkosh is still trying to increase development in its Sawdust District, which was created a couple of years ago when the Menominee Nation Arena — home to the Wisconsin Herd basketball team — opened. White says the area is still a priority but will take more time to develop.
The development is “incremental in large part because when we competed for the (Milwaukee) Bucks three years ago, it was still a very rough area,” he says. “Everything moved very quickly. We’re still trying to catch up in the community.”
Last August, Fox Valley Pro Basketball Inc. — the arena’s owner — filed for bankruptcy after several debtors filed lawsuits because they weren’t being paid. While Fox Valley Pro Basketball is working with the court on a plan to satisfy its debtors, the arena continues to operate as usual.
Downtown Oshkosh has been classified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a food desert, but a new project looks to change that.
The Oshkosh Food Co-op has launched a $1.6 million capital campaign to open a grocery store at the corner of Jackson Street and Pearl Avenue, across from the City Center.
“This is an area that is needed for revitalization,” says White, adding the co-op plans to use 8,000 square feet on the first floor of the BRIO Building, where it will sell local, organic and natural foods.
Aviation remains a key component in the city’s economy, whether it’s the Experimental Aviation Association or a business that works in the aviation industry such as Basler Turbo Conversions. At Wittman Regional Airport, multiple capital projects on the docket are designed to improve its infrastructure. One of the main projects is rebuilding Taxiway A to comply with minimum federal and industry standards, says Airport Director Jim Schell.
The airport received $7.5 million from the Federal Aviation Administration and $425,000 each from Winnebago County and the Wisconsin Bureau of Aeronautics. Construction will begin in April and be finished by spring 2021. Work on the project will pause around EAA’s AirVenture.
The airport will also begin construction of a taxiway connector to adjoin Taxiway A with the 80-acre aviation park, Schell says. The city and Winnebago County jointly own the aviation park.
“It makes a very nice industrial park, but it’s not an aviation park unless it’s connected to the airport,” he says. “That’s the one thing that has been missing is the connection to the airfield itself.”
The estimated cost is $500,000, which will be funded by county bonding, some of which may be reimbursed by state or federal grants, Schell says.
The Winnebago County Board recently approved a $7 million plan to demolish and rebuild two terminals at the airport. The new general aviation terminal will be an estimated 12,500 square feet. The funds will come from both the county and state. The project is expected to break ground this spring and be finished in mid-2021.
Under the plan, the main terminal and the annex building would be replaced with more modern facilities, which would lower overall operating costs.
Several airport hangars need to be updated and are at full capacity with a sizable waiting list, Schell says.
“We want to redevelop and rebuild the hangars that are in rougher shape. That’s the first step in 2020. It’s been a long time coming … we have a strong demand for hangar space,” he says.