Regional Roundup September

Posted on Sep 1, 2009 :: 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

NEW Zoo growth spurs construction, expansion
With admissions in the first half of 2009 up 21 percent over the same period a year ago and revenue up more than $32,000, Green Bay’s NEW Zoo is adding a new building – the Mayan food court. Zoo administrators say the building will provide additional indoor seating, a larger gift shop space and a more comfortable visitor area to accommodate its patrons as the zoo’s attendance continues to increase. About 249,000 people visited the zoo in 2008.

“We are out-growing our current facility,” says Maria Fisher, operations manager for the zoo. “Our budget is limited because the zoo is completely self-funded, so it requires a detailed vision to accomplish the necessary steps to allow us to continue to grow.”

Raasch Associates of Green Bay created the architectural plans for the new building and DeLeers Construction of Green Bay is the general contractor for the project.

At an estimated cost of $562,000, the 4,500-square-foot Mayan building will be the new heart of the NEW Zoo’s facility development. Construction is planned for completion by October. The next stages of the NEW Zoo’s development plan include a tortoise environment  and a rainforest exhibit that will be attached to the Mayan building.

$95 million in water funds for Northeast Wisconsin
Brown County and the Fox Valley will receive nearly $95 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and state Clean Water Revolving Loan funds targeted for water infrastructure projects. Gov. Jim Doyle announced release of the funds last month at the Grand Chute-Menasha West Sewerage Commission, which will receive nearly $41 million to expand and rehabilitate the wastewater treatment facility. Statewide, about $206 million will be spent on water infrastructure projects.

A full list of statewide water projects can be seen at http//

Ripon spurs $30 million in downtown investment
The City of Ripon is partnering with Boca Grande, an investment and development firm, in a project expected to produce investment of roughly $30 million in downtown Ripon and the surrounding area. The city’s investment in the project will be approximately $8.6 million, about half of which will be loans to the development firm, the remainder direct grants. The project includes a proposed inn and spa, a Republican museum, multiple restaurants and housing options, and investment in the downtown infrastructure.

The city’s investment will be funded by the creation of a new downtown Tax Increment District, according to Ripon Mayor Aaron Kramer. “While there is some level of risk in this project, we have taken very deliberate and focused measures to reduce our risk,” says Kramer.

A laptop for every student at St. Mary Central
All students at St. Mary Central High School in Neenah will have laptop computers within the next two years, thanks to a technology initiative approved by the Twin City Catholic Educational System, which also includes St. Margaret Mary and St. Gabriel Elementary Schools in Neenah, as well as St. Mary Elementary and Seton Catholic Middle School in Menasha.

Under the initiative, instructors will be given their laptops this fall and will receive training in hardware, software and curriculum integration throughout the school year. The plan also includes installing wireless Internet access throughout the entire building.

AirVenture sets records  
This year’s EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh set several records, according to EAA president Tom Poberezny. Attendance was 578,000, an increase of 12 percent over 2008. More than 10,000 aircraft arrived at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh and other airports in east-central Wisconsin.

There were 2,652 show planes (the highest total since 2005), including 1,023 home-built aircraft, 1,007 vintage airplanes, 355 warbirds, 116 ultralights, 99 seaplanes, 36 aerobatic aircraft and 16 rotorcraft.

AirVenture also featured 750 commercial exhibitors, 2,182 international visitors from 75 nations, with Canada (700 visitors), South Africa (220), and Australia (208) the top three nations. More than 900 media representatives were on-site from five continents.

UW Oshkosh’s Center for Community Partnerships estimates that AirVenture has had an annual economic impact of approximately more than $100 million on Northeast Wisconsin.

Little Chute and Fond du Lac make affordable homes list
Money magazine’s website places Little Chute 11th and Fond du Lac 22nd on the magazine’s list of 25 places “where homes are affordable.” The article is on the magazine’s website at Nineteen of the communities listed are in the Midwest.

The authors cited Little Chute’s median home price of  $118,000 and median family income of $71,563,   and Fond du Lac’s median home price of $110,000 and median annual family income of $64,856 as places where residents “see their incomes go the furthest.”

New tenant at Advance
DY Technology has opened an office in Green Bay’s Advance Business Center. Owner Dan Young has operated the business for just over a year, selling, installing and servicing Broadview Security (formerly Brinks Home Security) systems.

The Lakeshore: Door, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Sheboygan Counties

WireTech moving to industrial park site
It’s been a plan more than 15 years in the making, but the Door County Economic Development Corp. recently announced that a deal was complete to have Sturgeon Bay’s WireTech Fabricators relocate to a six-acre site in the Sturgeon Bay Industrial Park.

As part of the agreement, the city has signed development agreements with WireTech to purchase their current location and provide incentives to facilitate the move. The city expects to use the current WireTech site for housing development.

WireTech’s new 66,500-square-foot home in the industrial park is being built by Keller Inc., with plans for WireTech to be fully moved by March 2010. Once WireTech is out of its current location, the city will raze the building and prepare the site for housing. A model home could be built on the property as early as spring 2010.

The WireTech project received support from the state Department of Commerce and the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority.

$6 million dry dock project slated for Sturgeon Bay
Fincantieri Marine Group, owner of Bay Shipbuilding Company, has entered a development agreement with the city of Sturgeon Bay to use $6 million in State Harbor Assistance funds to begin construction of a new floating dry dock. The grant will fund about 200 feet of the 650-foot dock facility, with Bay Shipbuilding expected to complete construction of the remainder of the dock by the end of 2012.

Bay Ship has also begun  construction on a 3,500-square-foot weld training center and a 17,000-square-foot pipe shop in the shipyard. Fincantieri also says it has been approved for a $2.8 million federal economic stimulus grant that will help fund new manufacturing equipment at Bay Ship. Overall, Fincantieri has committed $7.8 million for capital improvements at Bay Ship in 2009, according to Sam Perlman, economic development manager for the Door County Economic Development Corp.

Lasee Upholstering wins business plan award
Kathryn Krauss of Lasee Upholstering & Marine Canvas in Sturgeon Bay is  the winner of a $1,000 cash award for the best business plan originating from the Door County Economic Development Corporation’s NxLevel Entrepreneurial Training course conducted earlier this year. In addition  to the $1,000 cash prize, Krauss will also receive a radio advertising package for her business from Door County radio station, FM106.9 The Lodge. The $1,000 award was sponsored by Associated Bank, Baylake Bank and Citizens Bank.

Lasee Upholstering was founded in 1951 by Krauss’s parents, Walter and Bernice Lasee. Krauss was among 13 students representing 10 start-up or existing local businesses in the class cosponsored by DCEDC. The 10-week course will again be offered in January 2010.

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

Spirit Implements notches major deal with McCormick
Waupaca-based Spirit Implements recently signed an exclusive agreement with both McCormick International USA and Landini, McCormick Canada. Spirit, which specializes in custom steel fabrication for the agricultural and construction industries, will supply front-end loaders and other tractor attachments for McCormick’s United States and Canadian markets.

Spirit President Ryan Delaney says the two-year renewable agreement marks “another step forward for our company which in recent years has taken great strides in our industry.”

Spirit Implements, which Delaney launched 10 years ago,  operated in a 15,000-square-foot shop in Waupaca until last year, when the company expanded into 38,000 square feet of space on 20 acres in the Waupaca Technology and Industrial Park. Delaney says he expects to add another 32,000 square feet of space in the near future.

The North Woods: Florence, Marinette, Menominee, Oconto Counties

Dislocated workers get $3.4 million in training funds
Laid-off workers at Marinette’s Karl Schmidt Unisia, Winsert Corp. and Marinette Marine, and at Oconto’s KCS International will get retraining assistance as part of a $3.4 million National Emergency Grant, which will be coordinated by the state Department of Workforce Development and the Bay Area Workforce Development Board.

The grant covers more than 1,200 workers formerly employed by 11 Bay Area manufacturers, including JL French, Kohler and Pentair Filtration in Sheboygan; Genmar Yacht Group (Carver Boats) in Pulaski; Koenig and Vits, Manitowoc Company and Federal Mogul in Manitowoc, as well as Karl Schmidt Unisia, Winsert Corp., Marinette Marine and KCS International (Cruisers).

The project funds retraining, as well as travel payments and other training related expenses. Workers who already have in-demand skills can get help with job searches, including workshops on resumes, interviewing and analysis of transferable skills. Workers who need skill development will have several training options to select from.

In July, Gov. Jim Doyle announced the distribution of $4 million to 11 regional workforce development boards to provide assistance to dislocated workers.

Marinette Marine laid off nearly 100 workers in 2008 and was planning to lay off another 200 to 300 this year until the company won a new Navy contract. As part of that contract, the keel for the USS Fort Worth was laid July 11 at Marinette Marine – the second littoral combat ship to be built in Marinette. The Fort Worth is expected to be finished in 2012.

The contract is considered an economic boost not just to Marinette Marine and the surrounding communities, but also to dozens of companies in Northeast Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula who provide parts and services.