Expanding the economic footprint

Major expansion projects in Fond du Lac create more opportunities for residents and business leaders

Posted on Jul 1, 2016 :: Economic Development
Andrew Schaick
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

Several major business expansions and plans are creating quite the buzz in the Fond du Lac area.

The latest resurgence in activity has business leaders and local economists optimistic about the future of the region.

Steve Jenkins, president of Fond du Lac County Economic Development Corp., says now is a great time to be in Fond du Lac, the region that ranks 13th in the nation for advanced manufacturing and prompted one manufacturer to begin the biggest expansion in its history.

Alliance Laundry Systems of Ripon announced a proposed $62.6 million expansion to its Ripon campus has been approved by the company’s board of directors.

Investment incentives from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, the FCEDC and the City of Ripon were also finalized to help clear the way for the expansion.

Todd Kaull, Alliance vice president – global manufacturing, says this expansion is much needed to help keep customers satisfied and to meet high demand.

“This latest and largest expansion ever means Alliance continues to grow and offer great products to our customers around the world,” Kaull says. “There is a rising demand for our product globally and that is important that we be prepared to meet that demand by increasing our production capacity.”

The expansion will add 225,000 square feet of new buildings, including the construction of a new North America Sales and Marketing Headquarters and the conversion of an existing warehouse into a manufacturing facility.

An estimated 200 new permanent jobs will be added to the local workforce and company officials are excited to see the community benefit from this.

“We have formed many partnerships since Alliance first opened,” Mike Schoeb, Alliance president and CEO, said in a press release. “We have developed a tremendous partnership with both Fond du Lac County and the State of Wisconsin and those have allowed us to continue to invest in growing our business and keep our workforce in Wisconsin.”

Jenkins says the company is a testament to the quality manufacturing the area has to offer.

“They have very robust growth occurring in all of their product lines, including the residential line that is under the Speed Queen nameplate,” Jenkins says. “They are an international company and are seeing growth in Europe, Asia and South America because of the long guaranteed lifespan on its products. We are very fortunate to have them in the community.”

And the gratefulness continues to be expressed from other organizations across the region and state. 

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation provided investment incentives. WEDC Secretary and CEO Mark Hogan says Alliance’s success and ongoing commitment to grow its operations and create jobs are proof of a strong business climate and a responsive economic development network.

Even though groundbreaking has yet to begin, the company is already looking toward the future and what might be on the horizon.

“The worldwide demand for our product is strong, and that means the future is very bright for Alliance,” Kaull says. “Our success lies in the fact that we will continue to build the best, most durable products that meet or exceed our customers’ expectations.”

Mercury Marine Expansion

Another well-known manufacturing company announced in May that it would be expanding its Fond du Lac campus.

Mercury Marine is adding 53,000 square feet of space, including 45,000 feet of manufacturing capacity and 8,000 square feet of office space. The company will invest in equipment to better streamline its processes and meet growing demands in the marketplace.

Demand for products in the global marketplace has afforded Mercury Marine with the opportunity to expand its facilities and increase production and capacity to ensure the company meets growing needs of its customers, company President John Pfeifer said in a statement.

“When you look at Mercury’s latest expansion, you continue to see the growth of their innovative products worldwide and the impact is very obvious,” Jenkins says. “They are up to 3,000 employees and they have invested about $750 million in new plant and equipment since 2009.”

This is the second major expansion to the Fond du Lac campus in the past 12 months. The company also broke ground on a 45,000 square-foot expansion to its electro-deposition paint system, which will expand its processing capabilities.

Jenkins points out that it will not just be large businesses that will expand, but that the area is attracting a new group of business leaders.

“We are seeing a resurgence of entrepreneurship in the community,” Jenkins says. “The location and easy access to Green Bay, Madison, Milwaukee and Chicago is one thing we really have going for us.”

Also helping to drive the resurgence is the enthusiasm created by Envision Fond du Lac, a visioning and strategy planning process for the greater Fond du Lac community that recently shifted from the planning phase to implementing opportunities to make the community better.

“Envision is all about collaboration and we look at things that have already been produced and things that are coming forward and we try to align the resources for them,” says Holly Brenner, chair for Envision Fond du Lac. “We want to be looked at as the catalyst and collaborative forum to bring community partners to the same table and work to uncover what is happening around the area and aligning resources to make sure that positive projects really shine through.”

Some of the projects Envision championed include amenities such as Pop-Up Cafés and figuring out how to leverage opportunities Forest Mall can bring to the community.

“When we were wrapping up our first plan, Forest Mall was actually sold, which was a great thing for what could happen out there and what is in line with the public vision to bring more great things to Fond du Lac,” Brenner says.

As Jenkins says, everything Fond du Lac does is compared to successful areas across the globe to ensure the highest level of success.

“If you can’t compete on the global landscape here, you are not going to survive and these businesses and manufacturers in Fond du Lac are doing that and they are doing it well,” Jenkins says. “We are proud they are here and we are glad to see them growing and as an organization and community, we do everything we can in order to support them and give them the tools necessary for them to be competitive.”

There are plenty of positives to build on, Brenner says.

“This community really punches above its weight and I think that is so true,” Brenner says. “There is so much activity here and positive energy and in terms of the future of Fond du Lac, I think we have stellar potential.”