Regional Roundup May

Posted on May 1, 2011 :: Up Front
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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 www.thenewnorth.com/communitiesmap.

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

Wind Energy Seminar Highlights Growth Potential
More than 600 people attended the Wisconsin Wind Energy Supply Chain Seminar March 31 in Appleton – far exceeding most expectations and a sure sign that businesses see the potential of the wind industry. The seminar was cosponsored by New North, Inc., and the American Wind Energy Association.

David Lisle, president and CEO of Wausaukee Composites and member of the New North work group on wind energy, says the turnout was encouraging, but also reflected the current reality of the wind industry, which is that there’s more interest on the supply side currently than on the demand side.

“One of the things we noticed is that it was kind of like we threw a rodeo and only the cattle showed up,” says Lisle. “Attendance was very heavy on the supply side, with only a few potential buyers.”

Lisle says that’s understandable, given the almost total lack of activity in wind farm construction since the capital markets dried up last fall.

“That huge sucking sound we heard in December was the capital leaving the industry. The repercussions were very swift and very significant,” says Lisle. “What you see right now is a momentary but very dramatic cessation of activity in the manufacturing of wind turbines and construction of wind farms. We do see a light at the end of the tunnel, and we think 2010 will be a very robust year, but it will take nine to 12 months to get it restarted.”

Lisle says optimism springs from the likelihood that capital will begin flowing again to the industry, as well as from the production tax credit that was reinstated by Congress in February. The expiration of the tax credit may have also played a role in slowing construction of wind farms.

“There was a lot of uncertainty about whether the tax credit would be reinstated, and most wind farms are not viable without the PTC, which provides a tax credit of 2.8 cents per kilowatt-hour produced,” says Lisle.

Lisle and others are confident that northeast Wisconsin will remain active in production of wind-energy components. AWEA’s Annual Wind Industry Report shows Wisconsin as the fifth fastest-growing state in terms of percentage growth in the wind energy industry over the past year, thanks to three new wind energy developments in the New North. Wisconsin now ranks 15th overall in wind energy production capacity, up from 23rd overall in 2007. The state has six times the capacity in 2008 that it had the previous year.

“This report illustrates the economic growth opportunities that exist in the wind energy industry for the New North,” says Jerry Murphy, executive director of the New North, Inc. “Wind energy is a targeted industry cluster for the New North, and it’s easy to see why,” Murphy said. “Our region has some of the best, most innovative component manufacturers in the country, great secondary schools, an ideal location, and great infrastructure. These assets have helped grow the wind energy industry in the New North, and as the industry continues to develop throughout the country, New North suppliers will see even more of the economic benefits.”

The new north also has helped compile a Wind Energy Supply Chain Directory, which provides a list of dozens of companies in Wisconsin that provide services to the wind energy industry, as well as a report on the potential of the wind industry in Northeast Wisconsin. Both reports are available on the New North website at http://www.thenewnorth.com/.

SBA program designed to boost lending
U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen believes a new Small Business Administration initiative can help make it easier for small business owners to get the capital they need to start up or expand, but it will require active participation from more banks, he says.

In March, President Barack Obama announced that the SBA would take several steps to try to free up the credit markets to make loans more available for small businesses. Under the program, the SBA will guarantee up to 90 percent of the loan value (up from 75 to 85 percent under previous guidelines) and waive some bank fees associated with SBA loans. The U.S. Treasury Department will also commit $15 billion in TARP funds to purchase existing small business loans on the secondary market.

For more information, visit the SBA website at http://www.sba.gov/ or contact the SBA office in Milwaukee at (414) 297-3941 or Madison at (608) 441-5263.

Keller to build McNeilus Steel distribution center
Kaukauna-based Keller Inc. will design and build the 112,000-square-foot steel McNeilus steel distribution center in Fond du Lac’s Southwest Industrial Park. Minnesota-based McNeilus is expanding its distribution network to supply steel products, which include stainless steel, structural steel, carbon steel, steel fabrication, steel construction, steel plates, and alloy steel throughout Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, North and South Dakota, and northern Illinois. Company officials say they expect to hire between 25 and 30 people initially. The building is scheduled for completion in October.

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

‘Go Shawano’ initiative aims to boost business
A coalition of Shawano-area organizations has launched the “Go Shawano” initiative, designed to provide resources and support for Shawano County businesses.

The “Go Shawano” team combines the resources of the City of Shawano, Shawano County, the Shawano Industrial and Economic Development Commission, Shawano County Economic Progress Inc., the Shawano Country Chamber of Commerce, Shawano County UW-Extension, Shawano Municipal Utilities and Shawano County Social Services.

For more information, contact Shawano County Economic Progress Inc. Executive Director Steve Sengstock at (715) 526-5839 or [email protected]

The Lakeshore: Door, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Sheboygan Counties

Kewaunee will study waterfront development
The Kewaunee County Economic Development Commission helped secure a $14,000 Wisconsin Department of Commerce grant to develop a waterfront redevelopment plan for the City of Kewaunee. The city has hired Ayres & Associates and appointed an Ad Hoc Committee to begin the visioning process and creating a plan. Work began in early March.

The Northwoods: Florence, Marinette, Menominee, Oconto Counties

Navy order prevents more Marinette Marine layoffs
The 170 Marinette Marine workers currently on layo? will not be called back into action anytime soon, according to company officials, but the U.S. Navy’s recent order for a Littoral Combat Ship means that further layo?s will be unlikely, at least in the short term. The company had previously announced that at least 200 more layo?s were pending before the Navy order arrived.

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