UP FRONT: Regional Roundup – July 2014

Posted on Jul 1, 2014 :: Up Front
Sean P. Johnson
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

» Highway 41 Corridor

Brown, Calumet, Outagamie, Winnebago, Fond du Lac Counties

Fond du Lac County sees strong job growth in 2013

The digital age has fueled a red hot job market in Fond du Lac.

In the latest job growth rankings published by NewGeography, Fond du Lac ranked 174th out of 398 metro areas in the nation. That’s an improvement of 179 places from the county’s 2013 ranking. Among similar-sized metro areas, Fond du Lac County jumped 102 spots, from 202 to 100.

Leading the way was the information technology sector, which grew at a brisk 12.5 percent, giving the county a ranking of 13 out of 317 metro areas measured.

“It was a bit of a surprise, but when you think about it, the IT sector is involved with just about every other sector, so there are a lot of opportunities,” says Steve R. Jenkins, president of the Fond du Lac County Economic Development Corporation.

Overall, Jenkins says the major companies in the county have reported business is coming in at a brisk pace. Some sectors have not returned to pre-recession levels, but Jenkins says they are keeping busy enough that he sometimes has trouble getting through to them.

Of course, there are potential pitfalls on the horizon with a lot of unknowns related to the Affordable Care Act and potential emission regulations that could affect energy prices. But, Jenkins says the business base has shown its resilience the past several years.

“They’ve learned to work lean,” he says. “We can’t quit. We’ve got to keep moving forward.”

Aver Informatics raises $8.5 million in funding

Some major investors are betting big on Aver Informatics.

The Green Bay area-based company, creators of a data management platform that simplifies health care reimbursement, recently received $8.5 million in Series A funding from Drive Capital and GE Ventures.

The new funding will be used to accelerate growth, as well as expand Aver Informatics’ engineering and sales teams. The financing was announced as the company also landed two more clients for its software services: University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Molina Healthcare.

With the capital infusion, Aver Informatics will be positioned to “transform the health care reimbursement process, providing higher quality care to patients at a substantially lower cost to payers,” says Kurt Brenkus, founder and CEO.

Aver creates tools that can analyze vast amounts of data in a client’s current claims systems and compartmentalize patient-care services into bundled payments. These bundles, known as “episodes of care,” create standard protocols for patient treatment and can reduce the delivery of unnecessary, expensive services.

By transforming the “fee for service” system into an “episodic care” system, Aver cuts costs for insurance companies, improves efficiency for medical providers and simplifies the payment process for patients.

Implementing bundled payments using existing claims systems infrastructures used to take years, but Aver’s solution significantly shortens the time to weeks, also saving clients money.

Photo courtesy of EAA

Photo courtesy of EAA

Center of the world

For one week each year, Oshkosh becomes the center of the aviation world as members of the Experimental Aircraft Association and flying enthusiasts descend on Wittman Regional Airport for AirVenture. The annual convention attracts more than 500,000 visitors from more than 60 countries to celebrate aviation in all its forms. AirVenture runs from July 28 to Aug. 3.


» The Lakeshore

Door, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Sheboygan Counties

Door County launches COIN lending program

For many entrepreneurs, moving from the business plan to a business requires a loan.

Unfortunately, that first loan is often the toughest to get. With no track record to present, and no assets to offer as collateral, these startups are often not good candidates for traditional bank financing.

In Door County, those entrepreneurs can now turn to the recently launched COIN, the Community Opportunity Investment Network, a micro-lending program created by the Door County Community Foundation and Door County Economic Development Corporation.

Unlike other micro-lending programs, Door County COIN will use philanthropic dollars to fund entrepreneurial startups and stimulate the local economy. The new venture will also include a business mentoring program using Door County’s retired business leaders.

“What COIN is designed to accomplish is to encourage entrepreneurs to build their businesses in Door County,” says Bret Bicoy, president and CEO of the Door County Community Foundation.

Case IH, Service Motor, NWTC partner on ag education

Northeast Wisconsin Technical College students will always have the latest in agriculture technology thanks to a collaborative agreement with Case IH and Service Motor Co.

NWTC and the two farm equipment suppliers have signed a 10-year agreement that will result in the latest equipment being supplied to NWTC’s Sturgeon Bay campus, where it will be used in agriculture education programs. NWTC will lease the equipment at a discounted rate, and both Case and Service Motor Co. can bring clients to the school for product demonstrations.

The agreement provides a cost-effective way to maintain new technology in the area, supporting productivity improvements in regional growing operations.



» The Northwoods

Florence, Marinette, Menominee, Oconto Counties

State grant to help Florence grocery

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation awarded a $250,000 grant to Florence County to help re-open a grocery store that has been vacant for more than seven years.

The lack of a full-service grocery store has been an impediment to economic development in the county and has been an issue in recruiting potential employees, state and county officials say. It also has resulted in half of the county being declared a “food desert” by the federal government.

After several years of trying to fill the vacant Haberkorn’s grocery store, Pat’s Foods, an Upper Peninsula grocery chain, agreed to take over the building and open a new store. In March, the county created a tax incremental financing district to help fund the project, and the WEDC grant provided the final piece of the necessary funding.

The new grocery store, a $1.2 million project, was expected to open in June.

The state funding is part of WEDC’s Community Development Investment Grant Program, which supports community development and redevelopment efforts — primarily in downtown areas — throughout the state.

The new grocery store is the latest example of the increased economic development taking place in Florence County.

A new Family Dollar Store is being planned in downtown Florence for late 2014, and Florence Hardwoods LLC is in the middle of an expansion project in the industrial park. All three of these new projects are benefiting from the county’s newly created TIF district.


» West Central

Shawano, Waupaca, Waushara, Marquette, Green Lake Counties

Fox Cities YMCA opens in Waupaca

The YMCA of the Fox Cities will assume control of Health and Fitness Headquarters, ensuring the continuing operation of the company’s two fitness locations.

The boards of directors for both the YMCA of the Fox Cities and YMCA of the USA have approved expanding services into the area.
The Waupaca center has nearly 3,500 members, including a corporate membership agreement with Waupaca Foundry, the area’s largest employer. Waupaca Health and Fitness Headquarters was built 12 years ago and purchased by Rick Johnson, a Waupaca lawyer and director and legal counsel to First National Bank in Waupaca, in 2006.

The main facility is located at N2610 State Road 22, directly across from Waupaca High School. HFH opened a new site on School Street in Waupaca in October 2013, which includes a full-service wellness area.

The transition is expected to be complete Sept. 1.

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