Rob Kleman has been with the Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce for 22 years, now serving as its senior vice president of economic development. Recently, the Oshkosh chamber and multiple area organizations teamed up to launch Opportunity Oshkosh, a campaign to boost the profile of the city and help attract economic growth. Kleman sat down with Insight Associate Editor Nikki Kallio to discuss the initiative.
The Opportunity Oshkosh campaign is really the culmination of two years of efforts from many economic development partners in the community. The Oshkosh Chamber and Chamco, the city of Oshkosh, Winnebago County, UW-Oshkosh, FVTC, the Fox Valley Workforce Development Board, Oshkosh Convention & Visitors Bureau, surrounding townships – the towns of Black Wolf, town of Oshkosh, town of Algoma – all are participating in this.
Roughly two years ago we got together and decided we wanted to create a marketing campaign designed to do a number of things: One was to enhance the image and enhance the perception of Oshkosh as a great place to locate a business, to grow a business, to expand a business. We developed a brand that everybody could rally behind in the community and hired Strata Communications to help us develop this plan. On Nov. 29 we introduced the campaign, Opportunity Oshkosh. Our website, OpportunityOshkosh.com, has a video series from community leaders discussing successes surrounding Oshkosh. The Phase Two part of this effort is targeted industry cluster analysis work. We applied for and received a matching $40,000 grant from the federal Economic Development Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce. We hired Northstar Consulting and Economic Growth Advisors from Madison, and they are embarking on a process to identify the clusters that will show strength in the Oshkosh market. We’re anticipating that analysis to be completed in March or April.
Oshkosh has been doing very well. It has led the region in new commercial and industrial construction, with almost $372 million in new construction reported through the Department of Revenue. Most recently, Area Development online ranked the Oshkosh/Neenah metro area the No. 1 area for job and economic growth in the state.
We have a growing IT sector in the Oshkosh community. (See Economic Development, p. 37) That’s one of the sectors we think we need to focus on. There are also some very exciting efforts to create an aviation industrial park at Wittman Regional Airport, a partnership between Winnebago County and the city. Chamco and UW-Oshkosh are working on potential development of a business accelerator as a part of that development.
Oshkosh’s economy is very diverse and we have been able to weather some of the tougher economic times. It has a strong manufacturing base but a growing service sector, with call centers, IT sector as well as having UW-Oshkosh as a major economic engine. Once UW-Oshkosh’s new alumni center is completed, they will have invested over $350 million in capital investment on campus over the past 10 years. The riverfront in Oshkosh has seen a transformation over the past five to 10 years. The city is about to complete the Riverwalk on the north side of the river in early 2013.
We’ve seen over 100,000 square feet of manufacturing expansion. One of the most important projects ever in downtown Oshkosh is the redevelopment of our downtown hotel into the Oshkosh Premier Waterfront Hotel & Convention Center, a partnership between the UW-Oshkosh Foundation and Pfefferle Management and RB Hospitality. It’s really exciting to see that project and the partnership that was created there, and the investment that our city made in the convention center a couple of years back – over $3 million. It’s going to allow us to really enhance our ability to recruit conventions and meetings.