Posted on Dec 5, 2011 :: Up Front
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

HIGHWAY 41 CORRIDOR – Brown, Calumet, Outagamie, Winnebago and Fond du Lac counties

Fox Cities chamber releases detailed economic report

Community and business leaders now have their opportunity to weigh in on economic development opportunities in the Fox Cities following the release of Ignite Fox Cities: A Blueprint for Economic Prosperity that was put together by Garner Economics LLC for the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce.

The 161-page report pulls together facts and figures, information gathered from focus groups and a detailed assets and challenges assessment. Throughout the report, the Fox Cities was measured against two other areas of similar size – Sioux Falls, S.D., and Chattanooga, Tenn. – as well as state and national averages.

Chamber President Shannon Full shared the report with the community at a Nov. 22 event. From here, she says it’s up to community and business leaders to decide what’s next.

The report indicates the chamber lacks adequate resources for economic development programs and says many business and community leaders are unaware of local economic development efforts. The chamber’s total economic development budget is currently $180,000, which the report says is inadequate to do what’s necessary to attract new businesses to the community.

Another area needing attention is funding for business start-ups, the report says. A network of angel funds and a formalized venture capital fund would help small business entrepreneurs immensely since funding is an integral part of a small business’s success.

The area’s quality of life – low crime, good schools and low cost of living – were touted as community assets the chamber can use to market the region to businesses.


Austin Straubel lands $500,000 federal grant

Austin Straubel International Airport in Ashwaubenon received a $500,000 federal grant to expand airline service in the Green Bay market.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Small Community Air Service Development program is making the money available to the airport to help efforts to secure year-round daily airline service to hubs west of Minneapolis.

The goal of the grant is “to acquire year-round nonstop Western hub service, either from Frontier Airlines’ Denver service or American Eagle’s Dallas-Fort Worth service,” according to Sen. Herb Kohl’s office. Frontier Airlines offers seasonal service to Denver and that airline recently announced it is ending service to Milwaukee beginning

Nov. 1. The grant is the only one approved in the state this year and the first time the airport has been awarded a grant from the small community air service program.

The State of Wisconsin also released $500,000 in state funds to help build a new Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting facility at Austin Straubel. About $7.9 million of the funding for the $9.25 million project will come from the Federal Aviation Administration and $835,455 from Brown County.

The new facility will be more centrally located on the airfield and will enable faster response times to emergency incidents, according to transportation officials.


UW-Oshkosh biodigester begins generating energy

The biodigester on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh is now generating energy from plant and food waste.

UW-Oshkosh’s anaerobic dry fermentation biodigester is the first of its kind in the western hemisphere. Gas produced as a result of decomposition of agricultural plant and food waste loaded into and stored in the facility’s airless chambers since late summer reached an optimal point in early October for energy-production startup. Staff members and students running the plant then activated on-site turbine engines, combusting the gas and harvesting and selling energy.

The renewable energy facility is expected to initially produce up to 5 percent of the campus’ electricity

and heat.


GE Health Products adding on to Fond du Lac plant

GE Health Products Inc. is adding 40,000 square feet to its Fond du Lac manufacturing facility.

The space will house a new, state-of-the-art fiber optic laser tube cutting system.

“As an integral part of our Made In USA Strategic Initiative, this expansion will allow us to manufacture our products more efficiently, making us even more competitive,” says Kurt Hellman, senior vice president of manufacturing.

GE manufactures healthcare beds at the plant under the Basic American Medical Products brand.

Keller Inc. of Kaukauna is building the expansion, which is expected to be complete in February.


Air Wisconsin receives grant to keep offices in Appleton

The State of Wisconsin will provide a $600,000 grant to the Appleton-based Air Wisconsin Airlines Corp. to maintain jobs at its corporate office in Appleton.

According to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, the award will help reduce Air Wisconsin’s lease costs over the next seven years, and the terms of the grant require the regional airline to maintain 242 jobs in Appleton through 2015 in order to have the principle and accrued interest forgiven.

Air Wisconsin, the largest independently held regional airline in the United States, employs about 2,800 people nationwide. The airline provides flying services for US Airways and ground handling services for United Airlines.


Deal to buy downtown Oshkosh hotel falls apart

An Oshkosh investment group’s plan to buy and renovate the City Center Hotel has fallen apart under the weight of renovation costs that increased as investors got a more extensive look at the downtown property’s condition.

Wogernese Hotel Group LLC and the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Foundation reached a tentative agreement last summer to purchase the hotel from Nashco Hospitality Group LLC and had until late November to secure financing for the purchase and renovation.

Oshkosh Area Community Foundation CEO Eileen Connolly-Keesler brought the group together and worked with the partners to find the investors needed to generate $5 million in private investment for the project.

The group initially planned to buy and renovate the 179-room hotel into a modern, full-service convention and business hotel for between $8.5 and $9.5 million. The consortium uncovered a number of unforeseen renovation costs so the property offer was withdrawn.


THE NORTHWOODS – Florence, Marinette, Menominee and Oconto counties


NWTC moves forward with new marine training center

Northeast Wisconsin Technical College is building a training center designed to meet the needs of the region’s booming shipbuilding industry.

The NWTC North Coast Marine Manufacturing Training Center will open in January in Marinette. The facility will provide two key training pieces for industry, says Lori Suddick, vice president, NWTC Learning Division.

“The center will help train incumbent workers in marine manufacturing. Parallel with that, the center will provide hands-on learning experiences for students in the Marine Construction technical diploma and the Marine Engineering Technology associate degree programs – delivering a future pipeline of skilled shipbuilding workers,” she says.

The marine manufacturing training center will occupy 16,000 square feet of the Goodwill Industries building located on Main Street in Marinette, a major hub of the shipbuilding industry. Marinette Marine Corporation alone is expected to hire about 1,000 workers, thanks to a U.S. Navy contract to build 10 Littoral Combat Ships.

The center will also serve to deliver training for general manufacturing companies in northeast Wisconsin.


Tyco Fire Protection opens $10 million center

Tyco Fire Protection Products recently opened its new $10 million Center of Excellence in Marinette.

The 35,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility is adjacent to Tyco’s Ansul Fire School and houses product design engineering, research and testing laboratories, product management, marketing communications and product training personnel.

Tyco, a developer and manufacturer of fire suppression equipment and systems, received $837,000 in tax credits from the former state Department of Commerce for the project.


 THE LAKESHORE – Door, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Sheboygan counties

Tourism, room tax revenues up in Door County

Tourism income is up for the first eight months of 2011 in Door County based on room tax revenues.

Door County Visitors Bureau President and CEO Jack Moneypenny says tourism looks to be up about a half-percent. Room tax revenue in 2010 increased more than 7 percent compared with the year before.

Two-thirds of each room tax dollar finances the unified marketing effort for Door County.

Kohler Co. building new global communications office

The Kohler Co. is constructing a new 79,000-square-foot office building in the Village of Kohler to house its communications and advertising staff.

The new global communications building is being constructed on vacant, company-owned land on the northeast end of Highland Drive.

WEST CENTRAL – Shawano, Waupaca, Waushara, Marquette, Green Lake counties

Seagrave expanding Clintonville facility

Seagrave Fire Apparatus LLC is adding 5,600 square feet to its Clintonville facility and remodeling its existing pump house.

The project will allow Seagrave to perform tests on the trucks more effectively. The building will also house a tilt table which will be used to test the trucks to prevent the possibility of roll-over when in use.

Keller Inc. of Kaukauna is designing and building the addition, which is expected to be complete

in January.

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