UP FRONT – Regional Round-up – October

Posted on Oct 2, 2012 :: Up Front
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

Envisioning strong growth

Shawano entities take job creation into their own hands

When the economy in Shawano County was declining and job rates were dwindling, the Shawano Country Chamber of Commerce kicked into gear. Collaborating with Shawano County Economic Progress, Inc. (SCEPI), the Shawano business community banded together to create a plan that would bring Shawano County to the forefront of Wisconsin business.

In May 2012, the two organizations announced the “Shawano Country Vision 2017,” an economic development campaign aimed at creating 1,000 jobs in Shawano over a five-year period.

The idea for the Shawano Country Vision began two years ago when the country was in the midst of a recession. Leaders in both SCEPI and the Shawano Country Chamber realized that area businesses were faltering and were not being given the tools to pull themselves up again.

With that in mind, the two organizations kicked off the project with a feasibility study funded by a capacity building grant from the Fox Valley region. They hired a firm that interviewed 83 business and community leaders in Shawano about whether they felt the five-year plan was a good idea, and if funds could be raised to support it. Overwhelmingly, the answer to both questions was “yes.”

Nancy Smith, executive director of the Shawano Country Chamber of Commerce, says she’s impressed with the team. “We have an oversight council to oversee the expenditures of the plan and determining the priorities. … Bob Nueske is chairperson. We’ve got leadership from Charlie’s County Market, ThedaCare, Wisconsin Film & Bag… there are some big players with lots of business acumen, and I’m very pleased to have their leadership in this.”

Since the plan officially began, the effort has raised more than $800,000, and has gained support from more than 70 businesses, community organizations, municipalities and individuals. Steve Sengstock, executive director of SCEPI, hopes this trend will increase as the plan moves forward. “More will be happening as we get into 2013. If we’re successful we should create an environment for 1,000 jobs or more,” he says. The fundraising goal is $1.27 million.

According to Dan Miller, campaign co-chair, Shawano Country Vision 2017 will begin operating in early 2013. A project-based plan will be overseen by an investor council and for each individual project to receive funding, it must be presented to and approved by the board.

The campaign consists of several initiatives to be carried out by SCEPI and the chamber separately. SCEPI will be working on business expansion, attraction and retention; tourism and retail development; and community development. To start, the chamber will be addressing three specific initiatives. The first is to conduct a tourism brand assessment for Shawano County. Smith says the chamber can find out what people think of the area and what attracts them to visit.

“We can take that information to promote the area to the right audience,” says Smith.

Secondly, the chamber will be working on a new “shop local” program. This program will encourage visitors and residents to buy locally by providing incentives for local purchases. And lastly, they will be working to expand the Leadership Shawano County program. The program would help people to engage in the community through civic organizations or elected positions.

Overall, the project-based promotions are meant to attract attention to the area for businesses looking to expand, and to make Shawano County competitive locally and nationally.

While no specific industries will be targeted for job creation, Sengstock says that the most likely areas to experience growth are manufacturing and agriculture, as the Shawano area already has a strong baseline for these industries. However, the UW Extension is currently conducting a study to determine which industries should be targeted, evaluating which business ventures would work well with existing businesses, and would make the most sense for future job growth. The study will determine which areas of Shawano County are the most attractive and marketable, says Miller.

A group that the Shawano Country Vision wants to attract is current residents. About 40 percent of the Shawano workforce leaves the county for job opportunities, and retaining local talent is a huge concern to members of the initiative. “(Workforce retention) would help in the churning of dollars,” Miller says. “Instead of dollars leaving the community, they would circulate throughout it.”

Smith says a successful campaign should yield about $22 million in economic impact annually. “We feel that the ROI for investors is very worthwhile, and [the project] will really help our local businesses as well as communities,” she says.

“In a nutshell, it’s all about jobs,” Sengstock says. “And we can’t wait around for the feds or state to do something. We have to do it ourselves.”

By Rashmika Nedungadi



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

NWTC, Miller Electric team up on welding partnership

Miller Electric Mfg. Co. and Northeast Wisconsin Technical College recently announced a strategic partnership to supply nearly $1.3 million of new equipment for NWTC’s welding labs.

As part of the agreement, Miller will update the welding and plasma cutting equipment on the NWTC Green Bay and NWTC Sturgeon Bay campuses and in Wausaukee High School, providing NWTC students with the most current training technology available.

“By working with companies and businesses, NWTC is able to continually react to industry needs,” says Joseph Draves, NWTC associate dean of trades and technologies. “For students, this means they’ll be working on the exact technology and machines that businesses are using, giving them current, real-world training.”

In addition to the equipment provided by Miller, the agreement outlines services that ensure NWTC continues to meet the needs of its students and of the workforce. Miller will provide equipment training and classroom support for the college’s Trades and Technologies Department. For its part, NWTC agrees to provide Miller with training credits for its employees.

Affinity parent looks to merge with Ascension

Marian Health System, parent organization of Ministry Health Care which took over sole ownership of Appleton’s Affinity Health System earlier this year, has signed a memorandum of understanding with Ascension Health Alliance of St. Louis, the nation’s largest Catholic nonprofit health system.

Ministry Health Care is one of three regional health systems sponsored by Marian Health System, founded in 1989, included in the memo of understanding.

Ministry Health Care has a presence throughout Wisconsin and eastern Minnesota with 15 hospitals including St. Elizabeth Hospital in Appleton, Calumet Medical Center in Chilton and Mercy Medical Center in Oshkosh.

Over the next several months, the organizations will pursue the development of a definitive agreement and begin due diligence. If an agreement is reached, Ministry Health Care would become a regional ministry of Ascension Health and the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother would share a leadership role of Ascension Health with four other religious congregations.

Alliance Laundry Systems of Ripon to add 260 jobs

Alliance Laundry Systems in Ripon recently announced plans for a $23 million expansion that will create more than 260 jobs.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation has approved up to $1.5 million in tax credits for the project while the Fond du Lac County Economic Development Corporation (FCEDC) Special Allocation Revolving Loan Fund has provided a $500,000 performance-based loan. Alliance Laundry is the world’s largest manufacturer of commercial laundry equipment.

“It is great news that Alliance Laundry Systems is growing and expanding their business here in our community,” says Ripon Mayor Gary Will. “This is tremendous news for the City of Ripon and Alliance Laundry Systems. This will be great for our city, and surrounding communities will benefit as many people commute to work in Ripon.”

The expansion will have a direct impact on the Fond du Lac County economy. For every $1 in sales by Alliance Laundry, another 30 cents in sales occurs in other industries, according to research provided by FCEDC.

Mercury Marine plans for $20 million expansion

Mercury Marine is planning a $20 million expansion of its Fond du Lac facilities.

The majority of the expansion will happen in Mercury’s product development departments with some projects focused on expanding manufacturing capacity.

The project is expected to be complete by the end of 2013.

The outboard engine maker is a division of Brunswick Corp.

KI completes Green Bay plant expansion

Furniture maker KI recently completed a $3.3 million expansion of its Green Bay facility.

The project added 100,200 square feet of manufacturing, shipping, receiving and warehousing space to KI’s current plant, allowing KI to reduce costs and streamline efficiencies.

Outagamie joins Bay Area board

Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson says his county is joining the Bay Area Workforce Development Board and is leaving behind the Fox Valley Workforce Development Board, which faced internal administrative and financial problems during the past year.

The Bay Area Workforce Development Board brings together leaders in business, labor, education and economic development from 11 counties, says Jim Golembeski, the board’s director.

Workforce development boards are authorized under the federal Workforce Investment Act to provide direction and guidance on the investment of federal dollars into various job training programs.



Door, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Sheboygan Counties

Lakeshore Industry Cluster Initiative gets off the ground

The counties along Lake Michigan and Calumet County are coming together for a new economic initiative.

The Economic Development Corporation of Manitowoc County is leading the Lakeshore Industry Cluster Initiative jointly with economic development organizations in Door, Calumet, Kewaunee and Sheboygan counties. The cluster initiative engages businesses in industry cluster networks to analyze and leverage assets and opportunities for additional business growth and development.

The initiatives’ initial focus will be manufacturing, food processing/agriculture, energy and tourism.



Shawano, Waupaca, Waushara, Marquette, Green Lake Counties

Creative Converting expanding operations

Hoffmaster Group Inc., the parent company of Creative Converting Inc., is moving its production and distribution operations from a plant in Menomonee Falls to its Clintonville facility.

Forty new hourly employees will be added in Clintonville, along with 10 salary positions once operations fully shift over from the Menomonee Falls plant to Creative Converting Inc. An estimated 100 Menomonee Falls employees will lose their jobs with the move.

Hoffmaster Group leaders say the move will streamline company operations and make it more efficient.

New owner for Shawano’s Aarrowcast

An Illinois private equity firm has purchased Aarrowcast Inc. in Shawano.

Industrial Opportunity Partners (IOP) did not disclose the price it paid for the provider of gray, ductile and austempered ductile iron castings for agriculture, heavy truck, military and construction markets. IOP says Aarrowcast’s current management team, led by Ben Grigg, president and CEO, will continue to manage the business. IOP operating principal Andrew Weller will assume the newly-created position of company chairman.



Florence, Marinette, Menominee, Oconto Counties

Niagara firm purchases vacant Brokaw paper mill

Brokaw Development, a division of Niagara Worldwide, which is based in Marinette County, recently purchased a vacant paper mill in the Marathon County community of Brokaw from Wausau Paper.

Wausau Paper closed the Brokaw Mill and put it up for sale earlier this year.

Eric Spirtas, president of Niagara Worldwide, says the company will develop and market the former mill property to sell to other companies. The days of making paper at the mill site are over, and Spirtas now is developing plans to attract companies to the property.


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