The sky’s the limit

Aviation business park leaders leverage AirVenture 2016 to make key connections

Posted on Jul 1, 2016 :: Connections
Andrew Schaick
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

Every year, AirVenture brings visitors from all corners of the world to Oshkosh and this year’s AirVenture is all about making the right connections.

For the past few years, regional aviation industry advocates have worked on the first phases of an approved aviation business park in Oshkosh, located south of Ripple Road between Oregon Street and the runway. Now leaders of the project are excited to leverage AirVenture and connect with businesses that might soon break ground within the 80-acre site.

“We would be remiss if we don’t capitalize on AirVenture with the half million people coming to Oshkosh, so we definitely want to utilize that, especially this summer,” says Audra Hoy, director of business and economic development with the Greater Oshkosh Economic Development Corporation. “We will have shovel-ready lots this summer for the park, so it is exciting to say we are ready to rock and roll.”

The aviation business park will house maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) related aviation businesses, which park leaders are saying will play well with the strong manufacturing industry already in the region.

“There are definitely interested prospects and they range everywhere from the company looking to fully locate here, to companies who are looking to add a facility to their repertoire and choosing Oshkosh as its location,” Hoy says. “The range is vast but very strong. Since Oshkosh is the home of general aviation, it makes sense for people to want to be here.”

AirVenture will serve as the backdrop to help expose the resources Oshkosh has to offer.

“We have an arsenal of things we are working on, which also includes a press conference during AirVenture to announce more business park plans,” Hoy says. “We will also do tours of the park and most importantly, we hope to connect with previous connections and make new connections during AirVenture and let them know that Oshkosh is open for business in a way it never has been before.”

A strong pillar influencing the Oshkosh brand in aviation circles is the Experimental Aircraft Association. EAA’s involvement with the business park is mainly on a support role. EAA’s President/Chairman of the Board Jack Pelton says EAA will be a participant in the overall process.

“For the business park, we take a role as a community citizen and will continue to support the development of this area,” Pelton says. “We are not afraid to raise our hand and say, ‘this is a good thing for Oshkosh.’”

Hoy describes the business park as a pillar for the region’s aviation business cluster, which includes companies from Fond du Lac to Green Bay.

“I think we are all pillars holding up a roof in terms of the business cluster,” Hoy says. “We are not necessarily competing head-to-head because we don’t all have the same structure and can all stand together and work together. As communities, we all win together and we all lose together.”

Meridith Jaeger, executive director of Wisconsin Family Business Forum at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, says the region plays an important role in the aerospace industry and the business cluster will help enhance that.

“Right now, we currently have over 300 manufacturers that supply the aviation industry,” says Jaeger, a previous executive director of AeroInnovate. “People will go where the resources are, and if we are providing those resources, I truly believe they will want to move here and put their roots in the ground to grow their business here.”

Aviation industry advocates want to build on the tight-knit relationships AirVenture is known to build among its members and visitors, many of whom already work in aviation-related industries.

“The one thing I have always been fascinated with is the fact that this industry is a true family,” Pelton says. “People are inviting, civil and passionate about what they do and the community is unique in that regard.”