Manufacturers across Wisconsin and the United States may be trimming jobs, but industry maintains a solid footing throughout Calumet County.
The county, which includes the southern and eastern segments of Appleton, runs along Lake Winnebago’s eastern shore, creating a landscape that’s both urban and rural. It’s also a county on the grow. From 2000 to 2008, the county’s population grew by 9.7 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s compared with 3.6 percent for all of Wisconsin.
Business growth is also evident throughout the county, especially in the City of Brillion where four manufacturers – Brillion Iron Works, the Ariens Co., Endries Industries and Professional Plating – have built a strong foundation for the community and further growth.
Last fall, the State of Wisconsin gave the City of Brillion a $247,400 Community Block Grant for infrastructure improvements to support expansions by Professional Plating and Endries. The two companies plan to invest more than $11 million on expansion projects that will lead to 127 new jobs in the next few years.
“We had $18.5 million in new construction in 2008 for the City of Brillion. That’s just huge for us,” says Wayne Volkman, Brillion’s director of Community Development. “We’re seeing our manufacturers have success, but at the same time we are seeing successes in other sectors.”
For example, a new 38,000-square-foot grocery store – Tadych’s Econo Foods – will open this spring in the city’s downtown. The store replaces the older T&C Market. Elsewhere downtown, Best Advantage Credit Union is opening a new 8,500-square-foot building.
“Since 2007, Brillion has attracted 11 new businesses to our downtown and along U.S. 10,” Volkman says. “We have a strong industrial base in our community and we are building on that with other businesses.”
Volkman also points to the success of the newish 37-acre Brillion Business Park, which was developed by Brilliant Development Group. The park is already home to Bellin Health Clinic and West Haven Assisted Living.
The city is also getting a new hotel, Cobblestone Inn & Suites, which opens this month and is being developed by WHG Group of Oshkosh.
“The city and chamber are both working to help Brillion grow,” Volkman says. “It’s an amazing partnership.”
With companies like Kaytee International, Briess Malt & Ingredients Co. and Chilton Manufacturing, the City of Chilton maintains a rich manufacturing history. According to Community Development Director Shawn Reilly, the goal is to build upon past successes and help local companies continue to grow. “The majority of our economic development focuses on companies already here and doing business,” he says.
For nearly 10 years, Chilton has invested heavily in its two industrial parks, making them shovel-ready for businesses. In 2008, the city added 20 acres to the Chilton Industrial Park.
“Our focus is on good, local businesses looking to expand,” says Reilly. “We have a lot of strong local businesses in Chilton and we are into fostering internal development and doing whatever we can to help the people in our community.”
One such company, GHD Inc., a manufacturer of anaerobic digesters that convert manure into three viable byproducts, completed an expansion at its plant on Chilton’s outskirts last fall.
EMPTY FACTORY GETS NEW PURPOSE
Heading down Highways 32/57 from Chilton, New Holstein is another industrial hub in the county. Although the city’s – and county’s – largest employer, Tecumseh, closed its doors in 2007, manufacturing remains strong.
Heus Manufacturing purchased the empty 430,000-square-foot Tecumseh building last year and moved its operations into part of the building.
“They aren’t using the entire building, but it’s not standing empty. It’s good to see manufacturing going on in there,” says Kelly Nieforth, Calumet County economic development specialist.
“New Holstein is also benefiting from the growth of other major employers, such as Amerequip Corp., M-B Companies and Metko Inc. As a county right now, we are holding our own,” Nieforth says.
Nieforth remains optimistic about the county’s economic future. She oversees the county’s revolving loan fund and says budding entrepreneurs are still showing interest.
“There is an interest out there among people looking to strike out on their own, but they are just taking a little more time and making sure their business plans are more thorough from the beginning so they know what they’re getting into,” Nieforth says.
The county also partners with the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Small Business Development Center, in partnership with the Calumet County UW Extension office, to offer business counseling sessions for small business owners or those interested in starting a new business.
“We’re doing what we can to nourish small businesses and that entrepreneurial spirit,” she says. “Not only do we have the counseling, but we also work closely with our technical colleges – since we’re in the middle we have access to three great schools – so that’s a real asset.”