Regional Roundup

Posted on Feb 1, 2017 :: Regional Roundup
Sean P. Johnson
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

» INTERSTATE 41 CORRIDOR

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

Oshkosh puts arena plan in play to lure the Bucks

Advocates for locating a Milwaukee Bucks D-League franchise in Oshkosh need a few more yeses to accomplish their goal.

The biggest yes, the one from the Milwaukee Bucks announcing it will locate the team there, is still pending, but the organization Fox Valley Professional Basketball received a big boost when the city’s planning commission approved its arena plans.

Those plans now advance to the Oshkosh Common Council, which was scheduled to consider the proposal in late January.

Fox Valley Professional Basketball has proposed building a $15 million, 3,500-seat arena on the site of the former Buckstaff facility in Oshkosh. The group had looked at several locations, including along the Interstate 41 corridor, but ultimately opted to redevelop the Buckstaff site.

Fox Valley Professional Basketball will pay the costs of the proposed arena. With the plans in place, they just need the Bucks to decide where they will locate their D-league franchise. The Sheboygan Armory is also a prospective site for the developmental league team.

“It will be a multi-use facility, and we are planning for other events,” says Greg Pierce, president of Fox Valley Professional Basketball. “We think we could operate without the Bucks and make a go of it.”

The facility also will seek to attract trade shows, conventions and youth and amateur basketball tournaments. Still, they will wait for the official go-ahead from the Bucks before beginning construction.

If the Bucks choose to locate the team’s D-League franchise in Oshkosh — they currently have no team in the NBA’s minor league — the arena will host 24 home games, mostly on weekends. While the arena plan includes space for nearly 600 cars, neighbors and adjacent businesses raised concerns about parking and traffic.

Pierce said his group is already working on resolving that challenge, including looking for additional sites to develop parking lots and a potential sponsor that would cover the cost of parking, discouraging patrons from parking on the street to avoid the parking fee.

“We are going to try and solve that as quickly as we can,” he says.

The Bucks have not set a timeline for deciding where the team’s D-League affiliate will be located.

Kimberly takes over NewPage site to spur development

The village of Kimberly exercised its right of eminent domain to take control of the 91-acre NewPage paper mill site in an effort to speed its redevelopment.

In a deal that closed in early January, Kimberly acquired the property for $5 million. It plans to spend another $2 million to prepare the site for developers, plus $6 million on streets and other infrastructure improvements. The city borrowed $13 million to push redevelopment forward.

Conceptual plans prepared for the former paper mill site feature a mix of townhouses, duplexes, apartment buildings, office centers, stores, restaurants and a hotel. There is also interest in creating docks along the riverfront. Public trails and plazas are included as well.

The village created a tax incremental financing district to recoup its investment during the next 27 years. That investment, according to the TIF plan, could reach $20 million, including the $13 million already borrowed.

While there is a risk creating a TIF district to finance the project — taxpayers would have to cover the expenses if the project didn’t generate the loan repayments — the alternative was to let the site sit idle.

Mercury Marine opens newest facility in Fond du Lac

Mercury Marine opened a new $24 million facility, expanding production capacity at its Fond du Lac headquarters in January, the fifth such expansion since 2009.

The company’s new 49,000-square-foot electro-deposition paint facility doubles its capacity to coat engine components with corrosion-resistant chemicals. The company has been upgrading operations in recent years to capitalize on growth in demand for four-stroke engines and growth in saltwater markets.

Since 2009, Mercury Marine has spent about $730 million on research and development and capital investments, including its main foundry, die-casting, machining and assembly operations. Meanwhile, the company is working on a new aluminum machining operation from the main facility across Pioneer Road and a new assembly line operation at its Fond du Lac campus.

» THE LAKESHORE

Door, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Sheboygan Counties

Proposed Lake Michigan marine sanctuary advances

Divers and tourists interested in Lake Michigan’s shipwrecks may soon have a marine sanctuary preserving them much closer to home.

In January, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released draft plans for a proposed National Marine Sanctuary for the mid-lake region of Lake Michigan from Two Rivers to Mequon.

Communities along Wisconsin’s lakefront region have advocated for the plan as a tourism and economic draw that will bring divers, academics and other interested parties to the region.

A public comment period on the draft management plan and environmental impact statement is underway.

NOAA’s preferred plan would create a 1,075-square-mile sanctuary in Lake Michigan that would protect 37 known historic shipwrecks and about 80 potential shipwrecks and other potential historic maritime vessels. Fifteen of the known historic shipwrecks are preserved virtually intact and contain two of the oldest known shipwrecks, dating to the 1830s.

There is one preserve covering Lake Michigan. The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Alpena, Mich., has transformed a once-blighted community with the addition of this educational attraction.

The proposed sanctuary would be managed by NOAA and the State of Wisconsin. Sheboygan Area Tourism is developing a Sea to Space plan to tie into the National Marine Sanctuary.

» WEST CENTRAL

Shawano, Waupaca, Waushara, Marquette, Green Lake Counties

Greenville approves first TIF district to attract developers

The town of Greenville created its first tax incremental financing district as it seeks to attract more business to an area that has experienced more residential than commercial growth.

The town board unanimously approved the creation of the TIF in mid-January. Approval must also come from a joint review board made up of the local school district, technical college and Outagamie County, as well as the county’s finance committee and board of supervisors. The TIF will affect all those entities.

Once a community creates a TIF district, the property taxes generated from new development in the district go toward reimbursing the municipality for costs such as property acquisition, demolition or infrastructure it incurred to bring about that development. The increased tax revenues from that development are diverted from the school district, county and technical college for as long as the district is in place.

Greenville’s TIF will be located in the land around the roundabout at State 15 and County CB.

Towns were given the authority to create TIF districts in 2014.

» THE NORTHWOODS

Florence, Marinette, Menominee, Oconto Counties

Next phase of construction underway at NWTC-Marinette

Northeast Wisconsin Technical College’s Marinette campus ushered in 2017 the same way it ushered out 2016 — with a whole lot of construction going on.

The campus recently concluded the first phase of a plan to renovate and add space to the building, and a second phase of construction is already underway.

Overall, the Marinette campus will see 14,500 square feet of new facilities added and the renovation of about 67,000 square feet of existing space.

New additions to the campus include a new and expanded space for the health sciences, business information technology, general studies and trades and engineering departments.

Each department will increase its program capacities as well, with health sciences adding a focus on meeting rural health needs and expanding to offer programs in gerontology and health and wellness; trades and engineering expanding in high-demand fields such as welding, machining and electro-mechanics; and business information and technology increasing its business programs capacity and expanding in IT.

The renovations are part of a four-phase project at the NWTC-Marinette campus, which began in May of 2016.

The project is funded by part of the $66.5 million referendum approved in 2015 for projects at all three of NWTC’s campuses.

About 3,000 students attend the NWTC-Marinette campus per year in pursuit of degrees and certificates, apprenticeships, classes and other continuing education opportunities.