Regional Roundup December

Posted on Dec 1, 2010 :: Up Front
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

Here’s a roundup of economic development news from throughout Northeast Wisconsin. For links to economic development groups in the New North, visit

Highway 41 Corridor: Brown, Calumet, Outagamie, Winnebago, Fond du Lac Counties

Fond du Lac kicks off new business program
The Fond du Lac County Economic Development Corporation and the Center for Enterprise Development has launched its new “Impact!” economic gardening program.

The economic gardening model, on which the “Impact!” program is based, is aimed at growing economies from within by assisting businesses with specialized tools and services. “Impact!” builds upon existing business development services already provided by FCEDC and supplies businesses with timely, relevant and actionable information about their competitors and markets.

A grant worth $437,899 from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration will fund the program for three years.

“The whole focus is really on growing our own area, continuing to support the businesses that are already located here in Fond du Lac County,” said Brenda Hicks-Sorensen, president of the Fond du Lac Economic Development Corporation. “After the three-year implementation, we fully expect that those businesses we’ve worked with will have added over 500 jobs and invested over $60 million in the economy and their businesses. We actually think that’s very conservative numbers. We have high expectations of the Impact! program.”

Fond du Lac is the first county in Wisconsin to offer this program.

Hicks-Sorensen said given the anxiety caused by the threat of Mercury Marine leaving the community, the grant award could not have come at a better time.

“There is an awareness that we need to support all business in Fond du Lac county and the diversification [of industries]. These tools will help us work with businesses who are looking at diversifying, and that are looking for additional niche markets,” she said.

The Impact! program will help make Fond du Lac “the premiere place to be,” said Joann Hall, executive dean at Moraine Park Technical College, economic and workforce development and also a board member of FCEDC.

“It’s really focusing on and dedicating attention to entrepreneurial development in Fond du Lac County, and is going to set us apart in the State of Wisconsin.”

Ken Wills, Quality Packaging in Fond du Lac, expects the program to help his own business.

“We’re a relatively small company, so for them to be able to provide us some tools to do research, and work at becoming more competitive and launching new products from this area, it’s going to be great for the whole community,” Wills said. “We’re in the midst of a product launch ourselves; it’s in the development stages, so this could be great for us right now.”

Fond du Lac Economic Development Corp. board member Russ Kamphuis applauded two companies that test-piloted the program, Brown Boots Interactive and West Bend Machine Works. “In short, this is huge, folks,” he said.

Six New North companies earn manufacturing honors
Wisconsin Commerce Secretary Dick Leinenkugel was keynote speaker in November when Advance, the economic development arm of the Green Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, announced six winners of the Manufacturing Awards of Distinction.

Great Lakes Custom Tool of Peshtigo won in the small company category, MCL Industries of Pulaski for medium companies and Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry of Manitowoc took home large company honors. Hudson Sharp of Green Bay was named exporter of the year, Lindquist Machine Corp. of Ashwaubenon won the friends of manufacturing award, and WS Packaging of Green Bay and Algoma received the Innovate 360 award.

The Northwoods: Florence, Marinette, Menominee, Oconto Counties

Fincantieri commits $40 million for improvements
Fincantieri Cantieri Navali Italiani, the Italian firm that owns Marinette Marine and Bay Shipbuilding, recently announced that it was committing more than $40 million to upgrade the shipyards in Marinette and Sturgeon Bay. Fincantieri officials say that’s the beginning of a five-year, $100 million plan to modernize the shipyards and support construction of the U.S. Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship.

The USS Freedom, an LCS built at Marinette Marine and delivered to the U.S. Navy in September 2008, has logged more than 7,000 nautical miles since its delivery, according to Navy officials. Marinette Marine is currently constructing another LCS, the Fort Worth.

The facility improvements will include installing state-of-the-art CNC-controlled pipe-bending equipment, doubling the lifting capacity in the module construction and outfit buildings, increasing the main erection facility lifting capacity to 200 tons in each bay, and significantly lengthening MMC’s largest erection building.

The Lakeshore: Door, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Sheboygan Counties

LTC unveils Center for Manufacturing Excellence
Lakeshore Technical College has a new state-of-the-art manufacturing facility at its Cleveland campus. The Center for Manufacturing Excellence: Integrated Manufacturing is designed to keep up with demands from area manufacturers and allows the college to offer new and evolving instruction options, says LTC president Mike Lanser. The 14,000-square-foot facility includes a motors/drives lab, mechanical lab, hydraulics pneumatics lab, PLC’s Lab, robotics lab and wind energy technology lab. The project was supported with a $238,000 federal grant.

West Central: Shawano, Waupaca, Waushara, Marquette, Green Lake Counties

Laser Excel expands with purchase of Plastic Services
Laser Excel, located in Green Lake, recently acquired Plastic Services Inc. of Hartland and combined it with Laser Excel’s own plastics group to form a new division.

As part of the integration of the two companies, the plastic services division will be headed up by Laser Excel President Richard Kent. Plastics Services Vice President Dan Esser will serve as vice president of plastics fabrication in the merged company and will manage the Hartland facility.

Founded in Green Lake in the early 1980s, Laser Excel specializes in laser cutting and plastics fabrication, producing promotional paper, stencils, crafts and hobbies, stationery, quilting rulers and templates. It operates in Santa Rosa, Calif., as well as in Green Lake and Hartland.