Regional roundup

Posted on Aug 28, 2019 :: Regional Roundup
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

interstate 41 Corridor

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

K-C announces plan to add 130 workers at Fox Crossing plant

Kimberly-Clark Corp. is in the process of investing $115 million in its Fox Crossing plant and plans to hire 120 machine operators and 10 maintenance electricians and mechanics by the end of 2020.

The investment in the plant along with the additional jobs is part of the commitment K-C made when it received $28 million in state tax incentives in late 2018 as part of a plan to keep the plant open.

In early 2018, K-C released a list of 10 facilities — including the Fox Crossing plant — it planned to close as part of a cost-saving initiative. The Neenah Nonwovens Plant also was on the list, and it closed this past spring, putting 74 employees out of work.

To keep the Fox Crossing plant open, K-C agreed with the state to employ at least 2,400 workers in Wisconsin in the next five years. The Cold Spring plant currently has about 575 employees.

In addition to bringing on new workers, K-C agreed to invest in the Fox Crossing facility. The company says it will spend $200 million on the plant within the next five years. A 135,000-square-foot warehouse is under construction at the plant and should open by the end of the year. Additional equipment — including the latest computer-controlled equipment — also will be added to the facility by the end of 2020.


WEDC report finds Wisconsin’s paper industry leads the nation

Wisconsin’s paper industry continues to lead the nation in the number of both paper mills and employees and the value of products sold, according to a new study released by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.

The state’s pulp, paper and converting industries directly generated $18.2 billion in economic output and employed more than 30,000 workers in 2018, according to the study, which the Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point completed for the WEDC. The industry’s total contributions to the state’s economy — including direct, indirect and induced benefits — come to more than $28.8 billion and more than 95,000 jobs.

The study also found the state’s paper industry is better positioned than many of its peers to meet demands for new products because of investments in plant upgrades, technological advances and improved worker training.

The study revealed the geographic breadth of the paper manufacturing industry in Wisconsin, with 41 of the state’s 72 counties home to at least one paper manufacturing business, whether that is a mill or a converter. In some counties, paper manufacturing represents more than 20 percent of manufacturing
activity. Paper is the state’s fifth-largest industry segment.

One area of concern is finding and retaining skilled workers. With the median worker’s age at 47.8 years, many in the paper industry are bracing for a “silver tsunami” of retirements within the next five to 10 years. Leaders say they are working to promote job opportunities in the industry, especially for younger workers with math, communication and problem-solving skills. Leaders also are looking to hire workers in the skilled trades, such as electricians and pipefitters.


West Central

Shawano, Waupaca, Waushara, Marquette, Green Lake Counties

Reinhart Foodservice expands in Shawano, will add 50 jobs

Reinhart Foodservice recently broke ground on its new 260,000-square-foot distribution center in Shawano.

An estimated 50 new jobs will be created during the next few years stemming from the $35 million project, which marks the sixth time that Reinhart has expanded in Shawano. The new jobs are expected in several areas, including sales, purchasing, administration and the warehouse.

The new facility, which is about a half mile from the current location, is expected to open next spring. Company officials say it will be environmentally friendly and much larger than the current space.

Reinhart serves independent restaurants, sporting venues, schools, nursing homes, hospitals and more. It employs 900 people at its three Wisconsin locations.

In July, Richmond, Va.-based Performance Food Group Co. announced plans to acquire Reinhart from Reyes Holdings, L.L.C. in a transaction valued at $2 billion. With annual net sales of over $6 billion, Reinhart is the second-largest privately held foodservice distributor in the United States.

“PFG has a solid track record of growth and leadership in our industry. We believe our strengths and the strong cultural connection our companies share will support continued success for many years to come,” said J. Christopher Reyes, Reyes Holdings co-chairman.

Shawano’s Reinhart facilities serve the eastern half of Wisconsin north of Milwaukee.


The Northwoods

Florence, Marinette, Menominee, Oconto Counties

Johnson Controls to pay $140M for Marinette contamination cleanup

Johnson Controls, owner of Tyco Fire Products in Marinette, has agreed to set aside $140 million to pay for cleanup of dangerous chemicals released through decades of testing firefighting foam.

In 2017, the company began investigating the effects of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, which are used in firefighting foam, on the groundwater in Marinette and the town of Peshtigo. In July, state environmental officials ordered Johnson Controls to broaden its assessment. Elevated levels of PFAS in drinking water have been linked to cancer and other health problems.

In a call to investors, Johnson Controls CEO George Oliver said the issue needed to be put in perspective.

“(The companies) purchase the compounds that contain trace amounts of PFAS, which they then blend to make the foam,” he said. “Tyco and Chemguard have always acted responsibly on producing these firefighting foams, and we feel very confident in our ability to defend
these claims.”

The Wisconsin DNR plans to hold a public meeting in September to discuss long-term water supply options for residents in affected areas.

The Lakeshore

Door, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Sheboygan Counties

Sheboygan airport gets go-ahead to welcome international traffic

The Sheboygan County Memorial Airport will soon welcome international air traffic.

Sheboygan has been designated a user fee airport, which is what U.S. Customs and Border Protection calls smaller airports that aren’t designated as international airports but have been granted permission to allow passengers and aircraft from foreign areas to land, for a fee. Appleton International Airport is the state’s only other user
fee airport.

With the new designation, Sheboygan County will build a new $3.7 million customs and visitors center at the airport. Since it is a user fee airport, the county will not pay to run the Customs operations. Instead, users will pay a fee that will cover the cost of a Customs official to process the aircraft, its passengers and cargo. Kohler Co. has already agreed to pay the annual cost of a U.S. Customs officer to staff the center. Other users of the customs center will also pay a fee to use it.

Last year, then Gov. Scott Walker petitioned U.S. Customs and Border Protection to allow the Sheboygan airport to become a user fee facility. Without having a Customs officer
on site, international travelers would need to go through customs at another port of entry before arriving in Sheboygan.

With Sheboygan County home to several businesses with a strong international presence, including Kohler, Sargento, Bemis Manufacturing, Johnsonville and Acuity Insurance, and the county’s golf courses hosting major international competitions, Walker wrote that it made sense for the Sheboygan airport to receive the user fee designation.

The customs station is expected to be in place in time for the 2020 Ryder Cup, which is being played next September at Whistling Straits and features top American and European golfers.

Northern Sky Theater debuts new center in Door County

Northern Sky Theater opened its new creative center in Fish Creek.

The Gould Theater, a first of its kind in northern Door County, is a professionally equipped, intimate 248-seat venue that will serve as home for the company’s fall and winter shows. In addition, it will be used for rehearsals, readings, workshops and benefits.

In 2017, Northern Sky embarked on the public phase of its “Constellation Campaign.” The company broke ground on its property on the corner of County Roads A and F in Fish Creek in May 2018. Both the building and the fundraising campaign are in their final stages, with $350,000 left to raise of the nearly $8 million campaign goal.

While Northern Sky will consolidate many of its operations under one roof, allowing for a year-round presence in this new facility, the company plans to continue to perform its summer season in Peninsula State Park.