PERHAPS THE MOST IMPORTANT resource we have in the New North — outside of our people and their work ethic — is water.
Transportation was the first use of Lake Michigan, aside from quenching thirst and providing fish for native Americans, of course. History tells us French explorer Jean Nicolet, the first European to cross Lake Michigan, in 1634 landed his boat just north of Green Bay, guns a-blazing.
Today, transportation is not a major use of Lake Michigan. But it could be.
We rely heavily on trucks traveling U.S. Highways 41 and 43 to bring goods to Northeast Wisconsin. Trains still haul some commodities, though the rail yards around Chicago are congested.
Creating a marine highway from Marinette to Chicago is a top priority for the Great Lakes Association, says Dean Haen, director of Brown County’s Port and Resource Recovery department. It would lower transportation costs for moving freight, reduce vehicle emissions and ease traffic on our highways, according to a recent study from the University of Wisconsin-based Center for Freight & Infrastructure Research & Education.
There are some roadblocks to the idea, but imagine the impact of freighters moving up and down the lake, and to Green Bay, on a much more frequent basis. Check out Sean Johnson’s story, “Working Waterway” on page 10 for more on the story.
Much more imminent changes for the region are in store later this year. Three major projects will be completed, each expected to draw thousands of people, including tourists. Lodge Kohler in the Titletown District is nearing completion and will be ready to welcome guests for the Packers training camp in July. The Fox Cities Exhibition Center is on track for completion by the end of this year, with conventions already booked for next January. And the new arena in Oshkosh, which will host the Milwaukee Bucks D-League basketball team, will be ready for games in November. For an update on these projects, see page 29.
Speaking of the Oshkosh arena, the lead developer of the project, Greg Pierce of Oshkosh-based Windward Wealth Strategies, shares the inside story in this month’s Face Time feature (page 15). He describes his excitement about all the action around sports entertainment in Northeast Wisconsin, and how the big-name teams are the anchor for building more events and activities — and ultimately, more economic development.
A couple of cool events are on the calendar this year. If you’re a fan of TED Talks, you’ll want to check out our Connections feature on page 18. Organizers in Fond du Lac and in Oshkosh are gearing up to host TEDx events in August and November.
“When you go to a TEDx event, you walk away inspired to take on the world,” says Sarah Spang, director of strategic initiatives for the Fond du Lac Economic Development Corp.
We’re aiming for a similar feeling at our annual THINC! event on May 11 in Menasha. If you haven’t already registered, I encourage you to do so. With innovation the theme, our keynote speaker is sure to provoke you into thinking in new ways. John Sweeney of the Brave New Workshop in Minneapolis will demonstrate how improv comedy can create an innovative mindset. Hint: “It’s a lot like surfing!” he says.
Insight also will announce the winners of our fourth annual Innovation Awards. All 29 nominees are listed in this issue. Look for our promotional pages on THINC! for details.
I hope to see you there!