UP FRONT – Regional Round Up – June

Posted on Jun 1, 2012 :: Up Front
Margaret LeBrun
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

» HIGHWAY 41 CORRIDOR
Brown, Calumet, Outagamie, Winnebago, Fond du Lac Counties

Appleton Papers will be Appvion

Appleton Papers Inc. and Hicks Acquisition Company II, Inc. announced they will engage in a business combination valued at $675 million. Appleton is a leading manufacturer of specialty high value-added coated paper products and a provider of proprietary encapsulation applications. Hicks Acquisition Company II is a special purpose acquisition company founded and headed by Thomas O. Hicks with approximately $149.3 million of cash in trust.

Appleton will change its corporate name to Appvion. The new name combines the words “applied” and “innovation,” reflecting the company’s transformation from a paper company to a business focused on coating formulations and applications, as well as specialty chemicals.

Appleton was founded in 1907 and had sales of nearly $860 million in 2011. The company employs approximately 1,800 people and has been 100 percent employee-owned since Nov. 9, 2001.

» THE LAKESHORE
Door, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Sheboygan Counties

Acuity: Over 250,000 policies written

Acuity has passed the 250,000 milestone in policies written, an all-time record for the Sheboygan insurer. (See “Ahead of the Curve,” p. 18)

“It took Acuity 65 years to reach the 100,000 mark and over 80 years to reach 200,000,” says Ben Salzmann, Acuity President and CEO. “Less than six years later, we’ve now reached the quarter-million mark thanks to our employees and independent agents.”

Acuity, headquartered in Sheboygan, is a property and casualty insurer that operates in 20 states, generates $840 million in revenue through 1,000 independent agencies, and manages $2.5 billion in assets. Acuity employs 850 people.

» WEST CENTRAL
Shawano, Waupaca, Waushara, Marquette, Green Lake Counties

Waupaca foundry has new owner

ThyssenKrupp announced the sale of ThyssenKrupp Waupaca Inc., its U.S. foundry business, to an affiliate of KPS Capital Partners, LP, a New York-based private-equity firm.

ThyssenKrupp Waupaca, Inc., is the largest independent iron foundry in the world, with three plants in Waupaca, one in Marinette, and facilities in Tell City, Ind., and Etowah, Tenn. The company employs about 3,500 people and had sales of nearly $1.48 billion in the last fiscal year. The decision to divest ThyssenKrupp Waupaca comes as part of the wider strategic plan and portfolio adjustment announced by the ThyssenKrupp Group in May, 2011.

ThyssenKrupp Waupaca President and CEO Gary Gigante says that the decision to sell the U.S.-based foundry to KPS came after identifying a buyer that met the prerequisites outlined by ThyssenKrupp’s “best owner principle.” Under the “principle,” the buyer was required to provide a detailed strategy for the continuity and growth of ThyssenKrupp Waupaca’s business that also took into account the interests of employees and customers.

“We wanted to be sure that Waupaca’s next owner shared our commitment to its future and that it was ‘business as usual’ for our workers and customers the day after the deal is finalized. I believe that we can achieve that goal,” Gigante said.

ThyssenKrupp Waupaca, Inc. will be renamed Waupaca Foundry, Inc. upon closing of the transaction. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Fundraising campaign starts in Shawano

Shawano County Economic Progress, Inc. (SCEPI) and the Shawano County Chamber of Commerce announced the official launch of the public phase of fund raising for their joint economic development initiative, Shawano County Vision 2017.

Fundraising efforts began in February with presentations and grant applications to larger employers; local, county, and tribal governments and private foundations. Campaign Treasurer Char Larsen, Premier Investment Services, stated the campaign has been quietly gathering support from major investors. Campaign Co-Chair Dan Miller, Senior Bank Manager of Associated Bank and President of SCEPI, announced the campaign has received 44 total cash pledges and in-kind commitments from corporations, government, local businesses, foundations and individuals totaling $758,220 or nearly 60 percent of the $1.27 million goal. For more on Shawano County economic development, see p. 36.

» THE NORTHWOODS
Florence, Marinette, Menominee, Oconto Counties

New transmission line proposed for Northwoods

American Transmission Co. has announced plans to build a transmission line and substation project that will improve electric system reliability in northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

The project could cost anywhere between $595 million and $895 million and would be online by 2016.

The company will hold a series of informational open houses on the project to discuss proposed routes. ATC officials say the project’s need is driven by several factors, including regional changes in power generation and load and the need to maintain the system.

The proposal includes:

» A 345-kilovolt line from a new substation in the Green Bay area to an expanded substation near Ishpeming, Mich. The project involves about 175 miles of work with a cost estimate of between $470 million and $705 million.

» A 138-kilovolt line from the new Green Bay area substation to the Morgan Substation near Oconto Falls. The project covers about 40 miles.

» Two 138-kilovolt lines between the Menominee County and the Escanaba, Mich., areas spanning about 60 miles.

USS Milwaukee construction begins

Marinette Marine Corp. is well underway on construction of another littoral combat ship (LCS) – the USS Milwaukee – and work recently began on the USS Sioux City and USS Little Rock – at the Marinette shipyard.

Marinette Marine also says it plans to hire an additional 150 to 200 people – mostly welders, steelworkers and pipefitters.

Send business news updates and photos to [email protected].

Margaret LeBrun

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