New relationships are leading to new opportunities for companies in Shawano and Waupaca counties. In Waupaca County, increased business at Spirit Implements comes just as the company plans a build-out of its year-old facility in the Waupaca Technology and Industrial Park. The company will hire additional workers to fulfill an exclusive deal to make front-end loaders and other attachments with McCormick International USA and Landini McCormick Canada.
“From humble beginnings a decade ago to now operating out of our new state-of-the-art facility in Waupaca, our team of dedicated and talented staff has made our growth possible,” says Ryan R. Delaney, president of Spirit Implements, which specializes in custom steel fabrication. While the economy has contracted in the past several business quarters, he says, the significant amount of new work recently contracted by Spirit proves the company “has shown resilience that few others in this economy can match.”
Waupaca City Administrator Harry Veleker praises Spirit’s growth and that of Centerline Machining, which is expanding its precision, machining and fabrication company’s facility.
“We’ve had some job losses in our community, so it’s great to have some positive news that some companies are expanding and hiring,” he says.
In neighboring Shawano County, an agreement between Cooperative Resources International (CRI) in Shawano and Flying Crane, one of China’s leading producers and distributors of infant formula and milk powder, is just one piece of good news for CRI and its parent company, Genex Cooperative Inc. As a result of the agreement, CRI and Flying Crane will build 10 new 10,000-head dairy cow farms in China.
CRI also received $300,000 in low interest loans from the City of Shawano and Shawano County Revolving Loan Fund programs to expand its lab operations and make improvements at its Stony Hill facility. The expansion project is estimated to create at least 18 high-tech jobs and have an estimated $1.4 million economic impact on the community in terms of payroll, says Steve Sengstock, executive director of Shawano County Economic Progress.
Sixty companies from around the world use the labs at CRI and the expansion will allow the company to provide even better products to its customers, says Glenn Gilbert, vice president of production.
“We are able to make a higher quality of products using new science and technology that will allow our business to grow even more,” Gilbert says. “This new technology will allow us to expand the current GenChoice sorted semen product line.”
The project includes an expansion of the Stony Hill facility located west of Shawano, which will allow CRI to house more bulls in Shawano, improving the efficiency and diversity of the company’s lineup.
Sengstock is excited about what the project means for the area. “CRI is a world-class leader and this is great news to have a company like this and the high-tech jobs that go along with it right here in Shawano,” he says.
In Waupaca County, education and health care options have expanded thanks to some outside investment. For a long time, people living in Waupaca County had to travel out of the area to attend post-secondary classes or receive some types of medical care. Two recently opened projects in Waupaca have changed all that, Veleker says.
Fox Valley Technical College opened a regional campus in 2008, equipped with classrooms and an advanced computer lab in the Waupaca Business & Technology Park, which is known as Waupaca’s East Gateway, an industrial, commercial and residential development.
“That campus has been a huge asset to our community. With the down economy, so many people are going back to school and to have the ability to stay right here and not have to drive out of the area has been tremendous,” Veleker says.
Veleker also praised the investments made by ThedaCare, including its new $23 million ThedaCare Physicians-Waupaca clinic that was integrated with Riverside Medical Center.
“People can get the care they need right here in the community. It was wonderful ThedaCare invested in the Waupaca community instead of making people drive to the Valley,” he says.
The Business & Technology Park is an investment in Waupaca’s future, according to Veleker. The city owns 140 acres ready for development. “When the economy improves, we’ll be ready to help companies expand or welcome them to our community,” he says.
GAMBLING ON GROWTH
Expansion projects at North Star Mohican Casino in Bowler and the Menominee Indian Casino in Keshena – just over the county line – are another dose of positive economic news for Shawano County, Sengstock says.
The Menominee Indian Tribe recently launched the first phase of a $67 million project to improve lodging, gaming and meeting spaces at the casino as it transforms itself into a full-fledged resort, he adds. The first phase – with a cost of $23.5 million – includes upgrading the hotel from a 2-star to a 3½-star status as rated by the AAA. A conference center with a ballroom that can hold up to 800 people and five breakout rooms is also being built. The project should be complete by the end of 2010.
To the west in Bowler, the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians operate North Star, which opened a new 66,000-square-foot casino earlier this year in addition to a new parking ramp and entertainment center.
“These projects are exciting for the county and are bringing people to the area,” Sengstock says. “Tourism is an important industry for the county.”