Regional Roundup March

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

For links to economic development groups in the New North, visit www.thenewnorth.com and click on newrep.

Northeast Wisconsin firms outshine the rest of the state
Businesses in Northeast Wisconsin fared better than their counterparts in the Madison and Milwaukee areas, according to a new report from First Business Bank.

Last fall, First Business Bank conducted separate economic outlook surveys in Northeast Wisconsin, Dane County and Milwaukee and Waukesha counties. While the areas received their individual results in December (Insight ran a story on Northeast Wisconsin’s results in January’s edition), First Business Bank decided to compare all three areas to get a better picture of how businesses did in 2009 and what they expect in 2010.

The result? Northeast Wisconsin businesses saw a lower decline than other survey regions in sectors such as profitability and sales revenue, which may be attributed to a higher number of business-to-business firms in the area.

Looking ahead to 2010, many business owners are optimistic, says Mark Meloy, president and chief executive officer of First Business Bank-Madison.

In Northeast Wisconsin, the survey was co-sponsored by Insight Magazine and the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.

HIGHWAY 41 CORRIDOR: Brown, Calumet, Outagamie, Winnebago, Fond du Lac Counties

Website charts progress of Highway 41 work
With work being done in Winnebago and Brown counties, the US 41 project is the largest road project ever for Northeast Wisconsin. To help drivers easily access information, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation is debuting a new website to provide drivers with the information they need to plan their travels or their daily commutes.

The website  at www.US41wisconsin.gov includes an interactive map showing the construction site, updates on closures, information on navigating roundabouts, a summary of the project’s special features and galleries featuring photos of the construction as it proceeds.

Construction activity is ramping up significantly in Winnebago County and will begin in Brown County this fall. The project includes 31 miles of US 41 in Brown and Winnebago counties and will include road expansion to accommodate increased traffic volume, 44 new roundabouts, improved interchanges and expansion of the Lake Butte des Morts Causeway.

Foundry says bankruptcy will not affect jobs
Although Neenah Foundry’s parent company has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, layoffs are not expected, according to company officials.

Neenah Enterprises, which employs about 800 in Neenah, says the filing will permit restructuring of its huge debt and not result in any layoffs.

“We will emerge from this stronger and more financially sound than ever,” says Robert Ostendorf Jr., president and chief executive officer of Neenah Enterprises Inc.

Pending the bankruptcy court’s approval, Neenah Foundry has received commitments for up to $140 million in debtor-in-possession financing to fund continuing operations. The company makes and markets a wide range of iron castings and steel forgings for the heavy municipal market and segments of the industrial markets.

Recession slows traffic at Port of Green Bay

The overall tonnage received by the Port of Green Bay during the 2009 shipping season dropped 18 percent from 2008. The port received 1.4 million metric tons in 2009 compared to 1.8 million metric tons in 2008.

“We knew the tonnage numbers were going to be down this year as a direct result of the economy,” says Port Manager Dean Haen. “As the economy struggled to recover, the need for raw materials went down considerably.”

Haen says an increase or decrease in tonnage is in direct relationship to the health of the local manufacturing and construction economy and its demand for raw materials such as coal, limestone, cement, salt and forest products.

Despite the decrease in 2009, Haen says there remains great growth potential for the shipping industry and he’s looking forward to a “better 2010 as the economy bounces back.”

Oshkosh will host global trade conference
“Taking Wisconsin to the World” is the theme of the eighth annual Northeast Wisconsin Global Trade Conference, which will be held March 30 at the Oshkosh Convention Center.

The day-long conference will provide business professionals with tools and skills needed to compete in the expanding global marketplace.

Topics to be covered include export-import documentation and procedures, global financing related to expansion, international forms of payment and risk mitigation, doing business in the Mideast, and global supply chain management essentials.

The registration fee is $70 per person with each additional registrant from the same company at $65 per person until March 19.  After that, the fee increases to $80 for the first person and $75 for each additional person from the same company. Register online at www.titletown.org.

DNR approves expansion for Rosendale Dairy
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has approved a plan to allow Rosendale Dairy to complete a $70 million expansion project.

Construction is going on now to build a second barn and carousel milking parlor, which will increase the dairy’s capacity from 4,000 to 8,000 cows. Rosendale Dairy has spent more than $6 million to build an onsite wastewater treatment plant.

Anthem cutting 111 jobs at Green Bay offices

Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Wisconsin plans to close its service operations at two sites in Green Bay, resulting in the loss of 111 jobs.

According to a notice filed with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, layoffs are expected to occur in April and May, as well as next January. Anthem is a subsidiary of Indianapolis-based WellPoint Inc.

Goodwill debuts service for micro-businesses
GoodBusiness is a new micro-business development service from Goodwill Northcentral Wisconsin. The 10-week program is based on First Step FastTrac training. Participants will write a feasibility plan examining their business idea to help them decide if the business idea is worth pursuing.

The program is designed for people with low to moderate incomes. Program manager Marijo Upshaw says the first GoodBusiness class featuring six candidates will graduate this month, but that more sessions are being planned.  For more information, contact Upshaw at [email protected] or call (920) 968-6041.

Fox Cities businesses more optimistic for 2010
Fox Cities businesses are looking forward to a better 2010, according to a new economic outlook survey by the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce.

Overall, 73 percent of the 200 respondents expect sales to go up, a figure up significantly from the 41 percent who held that view a year ago. The chamber conducted the phone survey of 200 member firms, asking about 2009 business performance, predictions for 2010 and views on economic conditions.

According to the survey, local businesses are anticipating a significant improvement in employment, sales and profits for the upcoming year when compared to 2009.

The number of planned capital expansions by Fox Cities’ business    is about the same as last year, but down about 25 percent from three years ago.

With respect to the Fox Cities economy, business is more upbeat this year than 2009 with 27.5 percent of all respondents forecasting economic growth and another 69 percent predicting a stabilized local economy.


THE NORTH WOODS: Florence, Marinette, Menominee, Oconto Counties

KCS calls back 100 employees
KCS International, the parent company of Cruisers Yachts and Rampage Sport Fishing Yachts in Oconto, has rehired 100 employees to work on new orders for both brands, and to help complete the 2011 prototype of the 470 Cruisers Yachts Sports Coupe.

The new model, set to debut this summer, will come standard with Volvo Penta IPS, Cruisers’ signature walk-through windshield and other features to be announced later this year.

Since November, employees have been brought back to finish production on several assembly lines and to start production on a number of newly ordered Cruisers Yachts and Rampage Sport Fishing Yachts.

KCS President Mark Pedersen says he expects the Oconto plant to be at full capacity by the end of 2010.

THE LAKESHORE: Door, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Sheboygan Counties

Young professionals gather for Leaderfest ’10
Leaderfest ’10 will bring together hundreds of young professionals from throughout the New North on April 1 at the Blue Harbor Resort in Sheboygan.

Dave Anderson, founder of the Famous Dave restaurants, will be the evening keynote speaker for the conference, which also includes a morning seminar and afternoon breakout sessions to help professionals of all ages enhance their leadership skills.

Coastal Connections – the young professional group in Sheboygan – is the host for the event.

The cost is $100 for the entire day or $75 for only daytime activities and $35 for Anderson’s speech.

For more information or to register, please visit www.leaderfest.com.

Sheboygan County adds economic director

Sheboygan County’s new Economic Development Corp. has its first executive director.

Patrick Drinan, who comes to Sheboygan after spending nine years as the City of Brookfield’s economic development coordinator, has been hired to lead the  development corporation.

The EDC is receiving more than $300,000 in public and private money to help recruit new businesses to the area, while working to retain and grow existing ones.

Business and government officials began pushing for a countywide economic development agency last year following a number of large-scale layoffs at local manufacturers.


WEST CENTRAL: Shawano, Waupaca, Waushara, Marquette, Green Lake Counties


Manawa’s Sturm Foods gets new owner

TreeHouse Foods is buying Sturm Foods of Manawa for $660 million from HM Capital Partners and other shareholders.

Sturm Foods is a private-label manufacturer of hot cereal and powdered soft drink mixes.

Based in Westchester, Ill., TreeHouse is the largest supplier of private label retail non-dairy creamers in North America.

Founded in 1905, Sturm Foods has 750 employees and operates three facilities in Manawa. HM Capital Partners has owned it since 2005.

The sale is expected to close by the end of the first quarter.

Company buys Shawano firm, plans to reopen
Quanex Homeshield, a division of Texas-based Quanex Building Products, has purchased the former Owens Flooring facility in Shawano and has plans to reopen the site at some point.

In December, Owens Inc. suddenly closed, putting 163 people out of work and entered voluntary receivership.

Quanex Homeshield purchased Owen’s inventory, equipment and intangible assets from the Owens Flooring division for $1.375 million. Quanex will lease the facility with an option to buy from the court-appointed receiver. Quanex has no timetable on when it will open.

Woodline Manufacturing Inc. also announced plans to purchase the Owens Door division for  $705,000.

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