Honored for excellence

Acuity, Rail Yard earn economic development honors

Posted on Sep 27, 2019 :: Features
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Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

Sheboygan’s Acuity Insurance and the Rail Yard Innovation District in Green Bay took home top awards in the 2019 Community and Economic Development Awards. Established by the Wisconsin Economic Development Association, the awards recognize businesses, projects and organizations that are making significant contributions to Wisconsin’s economy.

Acuity received the CEDA Economic Driver Award for its commitment to long-term investment in its Wisconsin operations, which delivers a significant economic impact. The Rail Yard received the CEDA Real Estate Redevelopment and Reuse Award.

Founded in 1925, Acuity provides insurance products to individuals and businesses in 28 states. Acuity has grown in Wisconsin and throughout its operating territory at a rate that eclipses the rest of the insurance industry, doubling its top-line revenue in the past eight years and adding $225 million to top-line revenue in just 24 months. In addition, Acuity is an integral part of the Sheboygan community with a long history of charitable efforts, including donating over $3 million to charitable organizations in 2019.

Acuity also recently completed a $250 million expansion of its Sheboygan headquarters, doubling the size of its total building space to more than 1.2 million square feet.

“We are tremendously honored and proud to receive the Economic Driver Award,” said Ben Salzmann, Acuity President and CEO. “This reflects our commitment to the state of Wisconsin as well as our mission of service to our customers and community and to helping people rebuild shattered lives.”

The Real Estate Redevelopment and Reuse Award honors innovative real estate redevelopment or reuse projects that have a positive impact on the community’s economy, including job growth and increased tax base.

The Rail Yard Innovation District began with the restoration of the historic Larsen Canning Co. warehouse in Green Bay. The project in the downtown Broadway District attracted employers, investors and consumers, leading to further development.

The Rail Yard Innovation District now includes multiple tech-forward, mixed-use buildings, which are home to 26 businesses, including a popular brewery. The $31 million project, which retained 190 jobs and created 100 new jobs, was financed with private investment secured by tax increment financing and state and federal tax credits.

“The Rail Yard leverages what was once an underused asset located in the Broadway District and has turned it into a beacon of hope for what can happen to repurposed buildings when historical structures are preserved,” said Brian Johnson, executive director of On Broadway, Inc. “Redevelopment of this site took a strong vision and commitment to a challenging project, one that was not easy but the right thing to do. Generations of people will now be able to enjoy these facilities in remembrance of the many generations before them that occupied these symbolic structures.”

Base Companies, LLC played an instrumental role in bringing the Rail Yard project to fruition. President Paul Belschner expects additional development.

“It’s exciting to see the continued development progress within downtown Green Bay’s urban core,” he said. “We’re just getting started.”

In addition to Acuity and The Rail Yard, other CEDA winners included the Promega Corp. in Fitchburg, the River Prairie Project in Altoona, ROC Ventures in Milwaukee and Western Technical College in La Crosse.

Several New North projects and organizations were also named finalists in this year’s awards: the Greater Green Bay Chamber of Commerce in the Economic Development Initiative category; the Oshkosh Transload Terminal in the Public-Private Partnership category; and the Co-op Program of Inspire Sheboygan County in the Talent Development category.

To see a list of all finalists, go to weda.org/events/awards.