UP FRONT – Regional Round Up – December

Posted on Dec 7, 2012 :: Up Front
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer



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

Military spending decline hits Oshkosh Corp. hard

The Oshkosh Corp. will lay off 450 production employees in January in response to a decline in military spending.

The layoffs will occur during a three-week period starting Jan. 11. A reduction in U.S. Defense budgets and a return to peacetime military spending forced the decision, the company said.

Oshkosh Corp. said it “explored multiple options to lessen the impact on the Defense workforce” such as extending medium tactical vehicle production for the U.S. Army into fiscal year 2015 and pursuing other sales such as more M-ATV and other defense vehicle orders overseas.

“Unfortunately, those will not compensate entirely for the decline in domestic military vehicle spending in the short term,” the company said in a statement.

It also is working with the UAW Local 578 on early retirement packages.

The company will still employ 3,500 production employees and about 4,000 total employees in Oshkosh.

Ministry plans $108 million expansion

Ministry Health Care is taking the next steps in the multi-phase plan to completely renovate and update the St. Elizabeth Hospital campus in Appleton.

Ministry says the project’s next steps are to build a five-story inpatient bed tower with all private rooms; renovating and upgrading the cancer center; renovations to the adolescent behavioral health inpatient unit; creating new entrances for the women and families center and surgical procedure area; upgrading the central utility plan; and investing in diagnostic and operative equipment. The project also includes demolishing the west part of the hospital that was built in 1924.

Employees and patients played a role in helping to design the new facility, says Gary Kusnierz, vice president of performance excellence for Ministry Health Care.

“We designed our inpatient bed tower unit to be structured in a 10-bed neighborhood approach to achieve flexibility and efficiency by adequately responding to the varying types of patients we treat and how many patients are in our hospital at any given time,” he says. “Our philosophy is to work with employees to improve work flows prior to design and construction. This allows for maximum efficiency when providing care in the new spaces.”

This phase is expected to be completed by January 2015.

WPS sends workers to help with Sandy utility restoration

Wisconsin Public Service Corporation in Green Bay sent crews to Connecticut to assist in utility restoration efforts in November. Twenty-five WPS employees joined thousands of other utility employees from across the country to restore electricity to the millions of customers without power in the northeastern United States resulting from Superstorm Sandy.

The WPS contingent of employees and equipment were expected to stay in Connecticut for two weeks.

WPS expected some delay to scheduled maintenance but didn’t expect normal operations would be affected.

“At a time like this, utilities from across the country offer to help those in seriously affected areas,” says Vern Peterson, WPS vice president of energy delivery. “We are always willing to help when we can spare employees and equipment.”

The cost of the assistance will be passed along to the respective utility companies requiring the help and will have no effect on WPS customers.



Shawano, Waupaca, Waushara, Marquette, Green Lake Counties


Waupaca County proposed sand mine impact studied

Opening a sand mine in the Town of Union in Waupaca County would add $1.5 million in new wages, according to a study by the University of Wisconsin-Extension.

A.F. Gelhar Mining Co. has proposed opening a sand mine, which would create 34 jobs. Wages at the mine would range between $15 and $25 per hour.

Gelhar will likely sell the sand from the mine to Waupaca Foundry, which has three plants in the Waupaca area. Sand, along with scrap metal, are key ingredients for the foundry.

Local firm awarded education contract

Bowman Performance Consulting of Shawano received a grant from the U.S. Department of Education to help schools meet student achievement goals and improve the educational outcomes of Native American students in four states: Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota.

Under a new federal initiative, 23 Comprehensive Centers, which provide technical assistance to state educational agencies, were awarded $52 million to increase the capacity of states and schools for school improvement. Bowman Performance Consulting (BPC) will serve as the lead agency to the American Industries for Research and the U.S. Department of Education to carry out educational improvement efforts for Native American students in four states: Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin.



Florence, Marinette, Menominee, Oconto Counties


Menominee library named for college president

The College of Menominee Nation is renaming its library after Verna Fowler, the college’s founding president.

“The naming of a building is a singular event in the life of a college,” says Bernard (Ben) Kaquatosh, chairman of the college’s board of directors.

“Dr. Fowler has been the chief architect and guiding spirit since her first day on the job in September 1992.” Kaquatosh says. “She started CMN with a small staff and a few dozen students in rented facilities and loaned space, including her own home.”

Based in Keshena, CMN offers baccalaureate and associate degrees and technical/trades diplomas. The college’s library opened in 2008.

Oconto earns state grant to remove blighted properties

Oconto County received a $46,195 grant from the State of Wisconsin to remove four houses as part of a program to improve residential neighborhoods.

The funding is provided under the Strategic Blight Elimination Program. Oconto County was one of several municipalities in the state to receive grants.



Door, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Sheboygan Counties


Sheboygan insurer Acuity adding 100 employees

Strong, sustained business growth is translating into more jobs for Acuity, a Sheboygan-based insurance company.

The company plans to add 100 new staff members throughout the 20 states where it has operations. This expansion adds to the 50 new employees hired earlier this year. In 2012, Acuity’s business is increasing at a rate of 16 percent, with growth in both personal and commercial lines. Acuity projects writing more than $200 million in new business premiums this year for the first time in its 87-year history and reaching the $1 billion written premium mark in early 2013.

“We are increasing our staff not only to respond to our strong growth, but as an investment in our future,” says Acuity CEO and president Ben Salzmann. “We need to be certain to have the people and resources in place to maintain our level of world-class service to a growing number of families, individuals and businesses.”

New Orion CEO cuts employees, costs

Orion Energy Systems in Manitowoc is cutting jobs and spending in a bid to return to profitable growth.

In November, after the supplier of energy efficient lighting systems reported a second quarter loss of $9.7 million, CEO John Scribante announced plans to trim 8 percent of the company’s workforce while trimming the number of consultants used by the company and cutting discretionary and capital spending. Scribante, who was named CEO this fall, replacing founder Neal Verfuerth, says the company is changing its product development and sales strategy.

Sales in the second quarter fell 42 percent, to $19.4 million from $33.5 million last year, with the decrease linked to an unusually high number of solar projects.

Masters Gallery Foods plans expansion

Masters Gallery Foods has announced expansion plans that would nearly double the size of the cheese processor’s production and distribution facility in Plymouth. The move also has the possibility of creating up to 50 new jobs.

The proposed project would cost up to $12 million and would involve building an up to 150,000-square-foot distribution and warehouse facility alongside the family owned company’s existing plant. Masters Gallery employs about 420 workers.

Company officials say the expansion is needed to increase storage space as demand grows and to free up space elsewhere for additional production growth. The company makes private-label cheese for national retail chains and sold under those customers’ brand names.


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