Regional Roundup

Posted on May 29, 2020 :: Regional Roundup
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Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

• interstate 41 Corridor

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

Herd may seek to move if arena future remains in doubt

The owners of the Wisconsin Herd said in a court filing the team may play its next season elsewhere if the financial future of the Menominee Nation Arena isn’t secured soon.

Future Bucks owns and operates the Herd under a franchise agreement with the NBA G League. The team began playing in Oshkosh in 2017 under a lease agreement that called for the arena’s owner to make payments based on ticket sales, concessions, parking fees and revenue from display ads at the arena.

Fox Valley Pro Basketball Inc., the arena’s owner, filed for bankruptcy in 2019 without ever making a payment to Future Bucks, the team said in its legal filing.

While the Herd indicated it wants to stay in Oshkosh, it may not have a choice but to move because Fox Valley Pro Basketball’s proposal to avoid bankruptcy could take several months to resolve. The firm has said if it can’t find additional financing by November for the arena, it will turn the property over to its largest creditor, Bayland Buildings Inc.

In Future Bucks’ filing, it said the team cannot wait until November to learn what will happen with the arena. If a decision isn’t made soon, Future Bucks will need to begin looking for a new venue to play in. The Herd needs to begin planning soon for its upcoming season.

Bayland Buildings asked a federal court to throw out the arena’s bankruptcy case, saying Fox Valley Pro Basketball made no protection payments to the company in April, brought in no revenue due to the COVID-19 closure and failed to pay its property taxes. A hearing for the request is scheduled for June 10.

Oshkosh Food Co-op campaign a success, store to open in 2021

The Oshkosh Food Co-op campaign to open Northeast Wisconsin’s first community-owned grocery store in the city’s downtown successfully completed its $1.6 million capital drive. The campaign raised $1,615,830 from more than 600 member owners, businesses, organizations and other regional supporters.

The co-op will be located at the corner of Jackson Street and Pearl Avenue in the planned BRIO Building. The co-op has leased 10,000 square feet of retail space from Merge Urban Development on the first floor of the building. Groundbreaking is anticipated later this year with an opening date in 2021.

“This marks a major milestone for this project and for our vision of stronger local economies, health and community,” said Brenda Haines, Oshkosh Food Co-op board president. “The way this region has come together to support this project is very encouraging to us as we take the next steps toward making this store a reality.”

Started last November, the campaign was a blend of member-owner loans, a grassroots fundraising method common to food co-ops, and charitable gifts, made possible through a partnership with the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation. With the capital campaign complete, the co-op will focus on securing other funding sources, including local, state and federal grants, and a community loan.

FVWDB announces outreach for permanently unemployed

The Fox Valley Workforce Development Board has created a form on its website to collect names and contact information to assist those permanently unemployed due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Those who complete the form will be contacted by a career planner with free job search and resume assistance, along with possible financial support for retraining.

When Gov. Tony Evers implemented his Safer at Home order, many nonessential employers that closed did so thinking the crisis would be over soon. Some employers continued to pay their employees as part of a furlough, while others laid off employees without pay, allowing them to collect both unemployment insurance and additional funds from the federal relief act.

Typically, when an employer lays off workers, it issues a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification, letting both the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development and the local workforce board know how many employees are being laid off and when. Many employers either didn’t file their WARN notice when they closed or now have found their circumstances have changed.

With job centers still closed, the FVWDB has created the pop-up form on its website for the permanently unemployed to share their name, contact information, county of residence and name of previous employer. Upon submission, one of FVWDB’s career planners will contact the individual to assist with a skills assessment, resume update and development of a job search strategy, along with guidance and support. The form is available at foxvalleyjobcenters.com.

• The Lakeshore

Door, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Sheboygan Counties

COVID-19 leads Kohler Co. to make operational changes

Kohler Co. reduced employee hours and temporarily shut down some divisions because of COVID-19.

The Sheboygan County manufacturer’s cast iron foundry and ceramics divisions have seen a decrease in demand, with both segments temporarily closing for a couple of weeks before reopening. Employees in all divisions except generators are working 32 hours a week.

In a statement, Kohler said it “remains on solid footing,” but demand for some market segments has decreased. The company is adjusting operations in Wisconsin and elsewhere to respond.

Kohler said some market segments have seen orders decline because customers have been negatively impacted by COVID-19, but the concern around sanitation has sparked an increased interest in other segments, including touchless faucets and toilet seats with an integrated bidet. Kohler has seen year-over-year growth in bidet products for the past five years.

“Kohler continues to be an essential supplier to many customers,” the statement said. “Operating to maximize the health and safety of our associates is our top priority.”

Cleaning crews have been more than doubled, hand sanitizer and masks are available, and Kohler is following the state’s 6-foot social distancing guidelines. In areas where social distancing isn’t possible, Plexiglass has been installed between workspaces.

Holy Family College announces plans to close after summer term

The 2020 graduating class of Holy Family College in Manitowoc will be its last. The college will close Aug. 29 — the end of the summer term.

In announcing the closure of the private Catholic school, Sister Natalie Binversie, community director of the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity, cited fundraising challenges and the “onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity sponsor the college, which opened in 1935 as Holy Family College before changing its name to Silver Lake College in 1972. The school returned to its previous name in 2019. Holy Family College did not release the number of current students, but in 2016 429 students were enrolled.

Lakeland University in Plymouth announced an articulation agreement with Holy Family College that would cover students who are entering their final year at Holy Family and a transfer agreement for other Holy Family students. Holy Family students would pay the same or less to attend Lakeland.

• The Northwoods

Florence, Marinette, Menominee, Oconto Counties

Oconto County leads region in 2019 tourism growth

Oconto County saw the New North’s biggest increase in tourism spending in 2019, with a 4.37 percent jump over 2018. Visitors spent $93.2 million in the county in 2019.

Wisconsin overall saw 113.2 million visits in 2019, with those travelers spending a total of $13.7 billion in the state, an increase of 2.6 percent over 2018.

Travel Wisconsin found visitor spending directly supports nearly 2,700 jobs statewide. In addition, visitors generated $1.6 billion in state and local taxes, which is equivalent to $687 in tax savings for every household in Wisconsin.

Brown County led the New North with $717.9 million in visitor spending, a 3.07 percent increase over 2018. Kewaunee County followed close behind Oconto County’s gains with a 4.23 percent increase for a total of $24.5 million.

All counties in the region with the exception of Florence, Fond du Lac and Green Lake saw increases in visitor spending. Green Lake County saw the steepest decline at 15.4 percent.

• West Central

Shawano, Waupaca, Waushara, Marquette, Green Lake Counties

Shawano announces grants to help small businesses

The City of Shawano developed an emergency grant program aimed at providing temporary relief to businesses in the city that have experienced economic hardship due to COVID-19.

The grant assistance of up to $5,000 can help small businesses cover occupancy expenses. While federally funded programs including the Economic Injury Disaster Loan and the Paycheck Protection Program are available, many businesses still need immediate assistance. The grant program is designed to supplement federal programs and further assist businesses that have already applied for the EIDL or PPP.

The city program is intended to help cover immediate occupancy expenses including rent, mortgages, utilities, insurance and other property-related business expenses for up to 60 days or a maximum of $5,000, whichever comes first.