Regional Roundup September

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

News affecting all 18 counties of the New North region

Study sizes up Wisconsin against rest of the nation
The state is seeking to get bolder business-wise. The Wisconsin Economic Development Association (WEDA), in collaboration with Competitive Wisconsin Inc., the Wisconsin Counties Association and a diverse coalition of statewide stakeholders, recently completed a collaborative economic development study to better position the state in the global marketplace.

Be Bold Wisconsin – the Wisconsin Competitiveness Study outlines two goals: Move Wisconsin to the top 10 in the nation in business start-ups and move the state to the top 10 for business expansions.

To meet those goals by 2016, the study outlines nine recommendations, including restructuring the Wisconsin Department of Commerce into Accelerate Wisconsin, a new quasi-public entity charged with crafting, delivering and overseeing the state’s economic development strategy.

Communities stand out for low crime rates
Five cities in the New North were ranked in the top 25 for the lowest metropolitan area crime rates in the nation, according to a ranking compiled by CQ Press.

For 2009-10, Sheboygan was ranked No. 2 in the nation, followed by Appleton at No. 3. The Oshkosh-Neenah area ranked No. 18, Fond du Lac ranked No. 20 and Green Bay ranked No. 25. Those were all of the metro areas examined by CQ Press, which determined its rankings by looking at reported crime stats.

“It’s a testament to the great communities we have across the region, and it’s one more reason why we’re among the best places in the country to raise a family,” says New North, Inc. Executive Director Jerry Murphy.

Telecoms receive funds to boost broadband coverage
Several New North companies are receiving federal funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Broadband Initiatives Program to help more people gain access to broadband Internet.

Companies receiving funding include: Scandinavia Telephone Company of Waupaca County, $1.2 million; Eastcoast Telecom of Wisconsin of Manitowoc County, $1.7 million; and Stockbridge &

Sherwood Telephone Company of Calumet County, $1.8 million.
A recent study found that 20 percent of Wisconsin rural residents do not have access to a broadband Internet connection.

Brown, Calumet, Outagamie, Winnebago and Fond du Lac Counties.

Appleton Art Center gets new look and new name
The Appleton Art Center is the recipient of the Trout Collection, more than 150 museum-quality works collected during the past 40 years by Dr. Monroe E. and Sandra Trout. In addition, the Trouts have provided the center with a $1 million endowment to preserve, protect and promote the collection.

In honor of the donation, the center will be renamed The Trout Museum of Art, effective Sept. 9.
“The generosity of Monroe and Sandy Trout helps us to realize our longtime hope to have a permanent collection of world-class visual art right here in our community,” says Timothy Riley, executive director of the Appleton Art Center. “The collection enhances our ability to borrow significant works from other museums, like the Smithsonian, the Art Institute of Chicago or The Metropolitan Museum of Art.”

The gift was contingent upon Appleton Art Center improving its security and climate-control systems to American Association of Museum standards. The updates, along with significant gallery renovations, were made possible through the support of private donors, corporations and foundations.

Bemis completes sale of Menasha, Oklahoma plants
Neenah-based Bemis Co. has sold two of its operations for $82 million to Exopack Holding Corp., an affiliate of the private investment firm Sun Capital Partners Inc.

As part of its purchase of Alcan Packaging Food Americas, Bemis agreed to sell its facilities in Menasha and Tulsa, Okla. The plants, which make flexible packaging for cheese and shrink bags for red meat, recorded 2009 net sales of about $156 million.

Bemis plans to use the sale proceeds to reduce outstanding commercial paper debt.

Equity firm invests $35 million in Green Bay company
IOD Inc., a Green Bay company that contracts with hospitals and clinics to handle requests for medical records, has received a $35 million investment from a Philadelphia private equity firm. LLR Partners, which has $1.4 billion under management, received a minority stake in return for its investment. The $35 million investment by LLR will be used for future acquisitions, says David Stienes, a principal with the equity firm.

Hospitals and medical clinics contract with IOD to handle requests for medical records from lawyers, insurance companies and others. The company trains employees on protocols for complying with regulations on privacy and security. The company also has technology that can pull information from electronic health records.

Fond du Lac Economic Development Corp. moves
The Fond du Lac Economic Development Corporation is moving to a new location at 116 N. Main St. The new site has additional room that will allow the organization to expand the number of services it offers while taking its current programs to the next level, says FCEDC President Brenda Hicks-Sorensen.

“FCEDC has continued to see an increase in people interested in starting businesses and existing businesses wanting to expand markets and increase operational efficiencies in order to thrive as the economy begins to rebound. The new FCEDC space will allow us to meet these increasing needs,” she says.

Extensive study begins of three area counties
The largest and broadest study of socio-economic conditions in Brown, Outagamie and Winnebago counties as work is underway on the LIFE (Leading Indicators For Excellence) Study. The 18-month project, which began Aug. 25, will inspect 10 key indicators for economic, physical and emotional well-being in the three counties.

Funding partners will focus on issue areas unique to each of the three counties, but key baseline data will be shared between the regions, allowing a look at the area as a whole.
The project is being managed by the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay. St. Norbert College Survey Center is administering data collection.

Outagamie County Regional Airport projects move ahead
Outagamie County Regional Airport has received federal dollars to fund several projects.
The airport is receiving $750,000 in federal funds for a runway safety project. The grant, which is included in the 2011 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Act, will pay for new airfield signs and runway guard lights designed to reduce the potential for runway collisions.

Two other grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation total $1.8 million and will be used to construct a chemical storage building to provide more efficient winter maintenance of paved airport areas.

In other news, the Outagamie County Board has given the airport approval to buy its on-site provider of fuel and aviation services for $3 million. The airport is purchasing the local assets of Maxair Inc. and a large hangar.

Door, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Sheboygan Counties.

Sheboygan start-up earns qualified new business status
Angel investors in Surgical Site Solutions Inc., a Sheboygan start-up, will now be eligible for a 25 percent tax credit on the amount they invest in the company now that the Wisconsin Department of Commerce has certified it as a Qualified New Business Venture.
Surgical Site Solutions has designed, developed and is in the process of commercializing a small, portable, battery-operated vacuum to remove hair clippings and residue associated with the pre-surgery procedure,

“The Qualified New Business Venture Program will be a major factor in helping to secure angel funding for our startup company,” says Jim Kregel, President of Surgical Site Solutions Inc.
Surgical Site Solutions’ product, known as the ClipVac system, is designed to save time while improving the shave-prep process by eliminating the use of surgical tape.

Sturgeon Bay manufacturer sets record with boat hoist
Marine Travelift Inc. of Sturgeon Bay has built the world’s largest mobile boat hoist for a Norfolk, Va., shipyard.

The new hoist, delivered to Colonna’s Shipyard, is capable of lifting 1,000 tons. The shipyard will now be better able to meet customers’ needs in a more timely manner. The Marine Travelift system is capable of lifting many vessel types, including U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard patrol craft and specialty vessels such as casino and dinner boats.

A Marine Travelift mobile boat hoist’s maneuverability is what allows the yard to utilize every square inch of its property. Operators are able to move vessels across the yard, in tight spaces and around sharp corners whenever necessary.

Florence, Marinette, Menominee, Oconto Counties.

Oconto development council seeks business input
The Oconto County Economic Development Corp. (OCEDC) is seeking more involvement from local businesses.

The OCEDC has changed its bylaws and will select business representatives from Oconto, Oconto Falls, Gillett, Suring, Lena, Lakewood/Townsend, Mountain, Abrams, Little Suamico and Pulaski, with an additional at-large seat for business. Business representatives may not be local elected officials with voting privileges in their home jurisdiction.

“Since OCEDC is directed by the local governments and businesses we are up to date on development opportunities and OCEDC knows what our specific needs are,” says Vicki Roberts, city administrator of Oconto Falls.

Shawano, Waupaca, Waushara, Marquette, Green Lake Counties.

Shawano manufacturer sold to private equity firm
J.H. Whitney Capital Partners has purchased Aarrowcast Inc., a Shawano manufacturer of precision gray and ductile iron castings.The sale price was not disclosed.

The purchase will allow the company to grow through the injection of new capital in the company, says CEO Ben Grigg. The company’s 335 employees won’t likely see many changes with the new owners, he adds.

Based in Connecticut, J.H. Whitney Capital Partners provides private equity capital for small and middle-market companies.

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