Cultivating Growth

Posted on Mar 1, 2010 :: Development
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

Dermatology Associates is building a $7.5 million addition to its headquarters in Manitowoc.

Ken Stubbe, executive director of the Economic Development Corporation of Manitowoc County, calls the project going on at the intersection of York and Eighth streets a gift to the City of Manitowoc. “It’s not every day that a downtown the size of Manitowoc gets a corporate headquarters. This is great news for us,” Stubbe says about Dermatology Associates of Wisconsin’s decision to expand its corporate headquarters as part of a $7.5 million construction project just a few blocks away from Lake Michigan.

Locally owned, Dermatology Associates offers medical, surgical and cosmetic dermatological services at clinics throughout Northeast Wisconsin. Construction began last month on the five-story, 50,000-square-foot addition to the company’s current headquarters. Once completed, the headquarters will house the company’s central services staff, including clerical, human resources, information technology, accounting, marketing and lab technicians.

Dermatology Associates has plans to create 124 new jobs at its corporate headquarters over the next three years, adding to the 51 people who currently work at the site.

To make the expansion possible, Dermatology Associates worked with both the City of Manitowoc and the Economic Development Corporation of Manitowoc County. The company was able to secure up to $568,000 in tax credits and $750,000 in tax incremental financing for public infrastructure related to the expansion.

“Getting the financial incentives from the City of Manitowoc and the State of Wisconsin was very much appreciated and instrumental in gaining approval from the project investors for the expansion to occur, allowing our headquarters to remain in Manitowoc,” says Tricia Wagner, vice president of finance and business development for Dermatology Associates.

Stubbe says the Dermatology Associates project is a perfect example of how the economic corporation works with local businesses. “We’re a public-private partnership that brings people together. We try to help companies navigate what’s out and help with different financing options,” he says.

The Economic Development Corporation of Manitowoc County (EDCMC) was created in 2004 after the Mirro Co. announced it was closing its local manufacturing facilities, putting hundreds out of work. That decision brought local business professionals together to come up with a plan to help get the economy back on track, says Dean Halverson of Leede Research Group and one of the group’s founders.

“We looked at how other communities weathered the economic storm after a major employer closed and the ones who were successful had economic development corporations in place to help them make it. It took businesses and public entities working together and that’s what we’ve done here,” he says.

What the EDCMC has done includes working on a series of projects that have retained or added jobs in Manitowoc County. In 2009 alone, the EDCMC estimates its work led to the creation of 224 new jobs and retained another 215 jobs as well as helping businesses make $9 million in capital investments.

The EDCMC also helps aspiring business owners through its E-Seed entrepreneurial courses and one-on-one business counseling.

Fueling Growth
In a community that was once known for making submarines and cookware, another company – Orion Energy Systems – is making a name for itself as a world-class energy system designer and manufacturer.

In the past year, Orion employees moved into a new three-story, $10 million headquarters and technology center. The facility brings together some functions that had been done at the company’s site in Plymouth, as well as elsewhere in Manitowoc. With Orion’s focus on manufacturing energy-efficient products, it makes sense that its own building is full of “green” practices, including a shared-loop energy system that cuts down on heating and cooling costs and Orion’s own Apollo Light Pipe system, which was recently granted a patent by the U.S. government.

Orion CEO Neal Verfuerth says the company was able to weather the economic slowdown since many companies are looking for ways to trim fixed costs and installing energy-efficient systems is one way to do that.

“We’re all about green retro-fitting of a location and making it not only more energy efficient, but also creating a more pleasant working environment for employees,” he says.

Orion is well positioned as both the state and federal governments take a closer look at energy use and the carbon footprint of businesses.

“We’re very positive about what the future holds for Orion,” Verfuerth says. “The City of Manitowoc has been an excellent partner and resource for us and understanding what it takes for businesses to succeed. We couldn’t ask for a better location and the people of Manitowoc have a wonderful work ethic.”

A former Stoelting Inc. site in downtown Kiel is finding new life as home to a $1.5 million multi-tenant senior housing development by Father Ed Development, which is owned by Mike Check, who also owns Mike Check Builders Inc.

The City of Kiel was taking a close look at the site as part of a city-wide comprehensive planning process and discovered a need for senior housing. The EDCMC was asked by the city to help market the property to developers. Once Father Ed Development showed interest, EDCMC worked with the developer and the city to make the project happen, Stubbe says.

“We were able to use an Environmental Tax Increment Financing District to get the city to pay $50,000 to acquire the property and up to $180,000 to remediate any environmental issues on the property. Kiel will have those costs paid back from funds generated by the tax increment from the multi-tenant senior housing development,” he says.