UP FRONT: Regional Roundup – September 2014

Posted on Sep 2, 2014 :: Up Front
Sean P. Johnson
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

» Highway 41 Corridor

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

Aviation cluster efforts gaining altitude

Marion Blakey (second from left) speaks to Plexus employees at the Plexus Aerospace & Defense Manufacturing Center of Excellence. The facility supplies electrical components and engineering expertise to the defense and aerospace industry.

Marion Blakey (second from left) speaks to Plexus employees at the Plexus Aerospace & Defense Manufacturing Center of Excellence. The facility supplies electrical components and engineering expertise to the defense and aerospace industry.

Northeast Wisconsin as an aviation industry hub is no longer a flight of fancy.

The Experimental Aircraft Association and EAA AirVenture Oshkosh attract thousands of aviation enthusiasts to the region each year. But outside a scattering of well-known companies involved in airplane conversions, and Fox Valley Technical College’s aviation courses, Northeast Wisconsin may not be perceived as much of a player in the wider industry.

“I think people would be surprised to learn that we already have more than 140 suppliers to the aviation industry within three hours (drive),” says Meredith Jaeger, director and co-founder of AeroInnovate, an Oshkosh-based organization dedicated to growing the aviation industry in the region. “We have companies that already do the specialized engineering and create precision parts. It’s where the airplane starts.”

Because aircraft aren’t assembled here, the region does not have the visibility of places like Wichita, Kan., or Seattle. Still, the efforts of AeroInnovate and others to promote the region as an aviation hub have accelerated the past several months.

D’Shannon Aviation, an engine overhaul business, recently announced plans to relocate to Oshkosh, while a Department of Defense Economic Assistance Grant, given to the region to cope with the economic fallout of cutbacks at Oshkosh Corp., will help identify and map out aviation-related supply clusters that can then be marketed to the industry as a whole.

Plus, the new aviation business park adjacent to Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh was set to break ground this month. Work on the infrastructure will start this fall, and sites are expected to be available by November 2015, Jaeger says.

Given the region’s experience in defense contracting, Jaeger also expects the supply chain study to yield some surprising and positive results.

“We are already supplying the marine and defense industries,” she says. “We have the expertise. We need to do some market development.”

Some of that expertise is already on display at Plexus’ Aerospace & Defense Center of Excellence in Neenah. The $50 million, 410,000-square-foot facility opened less than a year ago and provides custom electronic manufacturing and engineering services for the defense and aerospace industries.

“The term ‘rust belt’ is used too often to describe manufacturing in this region,” says Marion Blakey, president and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association, who visited the manufacturing facility during EAA AirVenture 2014. “These are world-class products.”

Having such a high-profile supplier can only help the efforts to build awareness of the aviation supply chain in Wisconsin, Jaeger says.

 

Tournament could bring $6.5M in visitor spending

June 2015 should be a good month for tourism in Northeast Wisconsin.

The U.S. Youth Soccer Region II Championships return to Appleton and De Pere June 20 – 25 next year, with 216 teams from the Midwest converging on the region for a chance to advance to the national championship tournament.

The event is expected to draw more than 3,500 players and up to 12,000 spectators as teams from 14 states travel to Wisconsin to compete. Regionally, that’s expected to translate into more than 12,000 nights of hotel bookings and $6.5 million in visitor spending.

“We have great people and great facilities,” says Matt Ten Haken, sports tourism director for the Fox Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We have a great group of people who really want to run a great event.”

Games for the tournament will be played at Scheels USA Youth Sports Complex and Southwest Park in De Pere. Next year’s event will be the third time Northeast Wisconsin has hosted the Region II Championships in 10 years. The tournament was played in the region in 2006 and 2011.

Hotel stays and visitor spending are projected to increase from the 2011 tournament because roster sizes have expanded, resulting in additional players, parents and supporters traveling to the event.

As a tournament host, the Fox Cities region has earned high praise from national tournament organizers.

“Fox Cities was a great host for the 2011 U.S. Youth Soccer Region II Championships,” says John Sutter, president of U.S. Youth Soccer. “We look forward to working with them again in 2015 for an even better tournament.”

 

Oshkosh goes regional with economic development

A new regional economic development group in Oshkosh will bring a collaborative approach to growing companies and jobs, its founders say.

The Greater Oshkosh Economic Development Corporation has an exclusive focus on economic development for the area that includes the City of Oshkosh, adjacent townships and other parts of Winnebago County. GO-EDC has been established as a non-profit corporation that will provide leadership and direction to regional efforts.

“This effort is an important new chapter in the history of collaborative efforts in Oshkosh,” Bill Wyman, chairman of GO-EDC, says. “GO-EDC will build upon the solid foundation that presently exists in our regional economy.”

Wyman was elected to chair the 21-member board. Tom Castle, from CastlePierce, was elected vice chairman.

“GO-EDC is an expression of many ideas and approaches that have been under development for many years,” Castle says. “It represents a new organizational framework for the advancement of important goals and objectives that will strengthen and diversify our local and regional economy.”

The group recently adopted its bylaws, and strategic planning for 2015 is under way.

 

Connect-a-Career rebrands, launches expanded program

The name is changing but the mission is the same – connect students with working professionals to explore career options.

This month, the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce will re-launch its successful Connect-a-Career program as Your Future Fox Cities, with an eye toward taking the program statewide under the umbrella of Your Future Wisconsin.

Several chambers of commerce around the state are exploring licensing the program, which connects students, educators and professionals using a data-driven web-based portal to increase student exposure to a variety of careers through job shadows, career fairs and speaking engagements.

In 2013, more than 5,000 students were exposed to career options of 165 participating companies.

 

» The Lakeshore

Door, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Sheboygan Counties

Manitowoc plant gets new tower order

Broadwind Energy, Inc. announced it will produce $34 million in new wind tower orders from a U.S. wind turbine manufacturer in Manitowoc.

The order was secured from an unidentified buyer in late July. The towers will be constructed at the company’s Broadwind Towers, Inc. facility in Manitowoc. This latest order put the company well on the way to maximizing its production capacity for 2015, says Broadwind President and CEO Peter Duprey. The orders represent two-thirds of the company’s tower construction capacity for next year.

“We are currently in late stage discussions to fill the remaining 2015 tower capacity and have started discussions for additional commitments into 2016 and beyond,” he says. “We are confident in the continued demand for wind energy assets in the U.S.”

The demand for wind turbines has slowed in recent years as tax credits for the construction of alternative energy equipment expired, and domestic natural gas and oil production have increased with new finds and technologies that have made its extraction more efficient and less costly.

Broadwind is listed in the Wisconsin Wind Works directory maintained by New North and is a supplier of components and equipment to the energy and infrastructure industries.

 

» The Northwoods

Florence, Marinette, Menominee, Oconto Counties

Cruiser Yachts shows off new model at dealer meeting

The boating industry continues to show improving health with the rollout of a new model from Oconto-based KCS International.

With dealers from around the world in attendance at the company’s annual dealer meetings in Sturgeon Bay, the company’s Cruiser Yachts brand debuted the new 390 Express Coupe, a 39-foot hybrid sports yacht that will be available for the 2015 boating season.

The new model takes to the water as the industry has been enjoying a rebound from the aftereffects of the Great Recession. Boat sales plummeted by more than 53 percent in 2009, and have slowly been growing since, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association. The industry finally saw a big boost in 2012 when sales grew 10.7 percent, according to statistics from the NMMA.

In 2013, the industry experienced nearly $37 million in sales, an increase of 3.2 percent over 2012.

KCS employs 300 in the Oconto manufacturing facility building the Cruiser line of boats. The company also manufactures Rampage Sport Fishing Yachts and Azure Sport Boats.

 

» West Central

Shawano, Waupaca, Waushara, Marquette, Green Lake Counties

High voltage transmission line project advances

American Transmission Co.’s plans to build additional high-voltage transmission lines in Northeast Wisconsin have advanced closer
to fruition.

The Public Service Commission has informed ATC its application for the 345,000- and 138,000-volt lines is complete. That confirmation now triggers an extensive review process by the PSC and other state agencies, which will include public hearings.

The North Appleton-Morgan transmission line project, part of ATC’s Bay Lake Project, would include facilities in Outagamie, Brown, Shawano, Oconto and Marinette counties.

The project would address reliability concerns, changes in generation and demand in the region, and the evolution of a wholesale electricity market, ATC says.

ATC estimates the cost of the project at $307 million to $327 million, depending on route and substation alternatives. If approved, construction would begin in 2017 and the line would be in service in 2019.

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