UP FRONT: Regional Roundup – August 2014

Posted on Aug 1, 2014 :: Up Front
Sean P. Johnson
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

» Highway 41 Corridor

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

Games could pay big  dividends for Fox Valley

The games children play are now a viable economic development strategy for growing the local economy.

That’s the message delivered to regional tourism officials and sports advocates by the Huddle Up Group, a consulting firm hired to study the value of sports tourism to the Fox Cities. Nationally, sports tourism is an $8.2 billion industry that grew by more than 9 percent in 2012. 

For the Fox Cities area, sports tourism was responsible for more than 38,000 hotel room bookings in 2013. It is estimated that families attending those events spend $108 per day. 

“Sports is now economic development strategy,” says Jon Schmieder, founder and CEO of Huddle Up Group. “There are states now that are using sports as a top-line strategy for economic development. States like Indiana have done it for more than 25 years.”

If New North wants to capture a larger piece of the sports tourism pie, it’s going to have to build the facilities that will attract those major events to the area. While there are some assets in place – the Scheels USA Sports Complex, for example – there is a critical need for an indoor, hard-court facility that could attract larger basketball and volleyball tournaments. 

A new multi-court facility could cost as much as $24 million.

Enhancements to existing  facilities, as well as long range planning and marketing, also are a must, Schmieder says.  

Huddle Up Group recommends the Fox Cities Convention & Facilities Bureau lead a campaign to finance and operate the facility through a 2 percent increase in the hotel bed tax. Even with the increase, the hotel bed tax for the Fox Cities region would still be lower than adjacent areas such as Green Bay or Oshkosh. 

As proposed, the increase would raise $1 million annually for 30 years. In addition to the boost in the room tax, Huddle Up Group also recommended the CVB dedicate $500,000 of its existing budget to the launch of the new facility and $100,000 a year to operate it. 

Approval of any hotel bed tax increase would still require the approval of the 19 communities that make up the Fox Cities region. The CVB is still studying the proposal and has not announced whether it will pursue any of the recommendations.

Con-way opens new facility, adds jobs 

Con-way Freight dedicated a new $8 million service center in Fond du Lac that will serve as a daily freight pickup and delivery point for businesses throughout the region.

Located just off of U.S. Highway 41, the 47,000-square-foot freight facility will employ more than 100, with 60 of those positions being new hires. In addition to handling freight, the new facility includes driver sales representatives, operations support, sales, customer service and administration.

The new service center also allows for the consolidation of smaller service centers previously located in Fond du Lac, Sheboygan and Neenah into one larger, more cost-effective facility.

“The increased capacity and additional jobs here in Fond du Lac will help us better serve the needs of the community while enabling us to grow with our customers and continue delivering the industry’s fastest, most reliable and consistent quality service,” said John McCutcheon, director of operations for Con-way’s Milwaukee region. 

Con-way previously operated a Fond du Lac facility for 23 years from a site at 736 Morris St.

The new center has 96 dock doors and can be expanded to 120. It provides the company with the capacity to move more than 1.6 million pounds of freight per day. 

In order to support its new capacity, Con-way has increased its truck fleet from 18 to 50, and its trailers from 65 to 160. Alliance Laundry, Mercury Marine and John Deere are some of the large customers served from the new facility.

 

» The Lakeshore

Door, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Sheboygan Counties

Washington Island goes purple

lavender_320The purple really stands out.

One of Washington Island’s latest additions, the Fragrant Isle Lavender Farm & Shop, opened the doors of a 4,000-square-foot retail space and café that farm owners Edgar and Martine Anderson built on the lavender farm they started after moving to the island a few years ago. 

There are currently about 14,000 plants on the farm representing 12 varieties of lavender. 

Lavender festivals have proven popular in areas such as the Pacific Northwest, and after determining the plants would do well in the island’s sandy soil, the Andersons set out to see if they could accomplish the same thing in Door County. 

The retail space includes a wide variety of home décor and culinary items made from lavender. The plants will be in full bloom through August. As many as 30,000 plants are planned for the farm. 

Fragrant Isle is already working on plans for creating a lavender festival that will attract additional visitors to the island. The annual Lavender Festival in Sequim, Wash., attracts nearly 30,000 visitors a year. —Sean P. Johnson

 

» The Northwoods

Florence, Marinette, Menominee, Oconto Counties

Marinette Marine still awaiting fate of future ships

The wait is still on for shipbuilders at Marinette Marine Corp. 

The future of the Littoral Combat Ships built there rests in the hands of the U.S. Senate, and so far, the political gridlock that has come to define that body has prevented the approval of a defense spending measure that will build at least one more ship in Marinette. 

It could have been worse. Planned defense cutbacks had threatened to end the shipbuilding program completely. The U.S. House, however, approved a spending measure that included building one ship in Marinette and one in Georgia.  

Without Senate approval, the program’s short-term fate remains unresolved. 

“The LCS is a critical component to our national security and global military presence and the Navy has said repeatedly it’s vital for this class of ship to continue,” Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Wis., says. “While I wish there was funding in this bill for the additional ship that the Navy has requested, I’m hopeful that progress can be made as the House and Senate move forward on this legislation.”

Ribble and other members of the Wisconsin delegation worked to block amendments that would have gutted the entire LCS program. The first LCS constructed at the Marinette Marine Shipyard, the USS Freedom, was launched in 2006, followed by the USS Fort Worth in 2010. USS Milwaukee was launched in 2013 and the next ship, USS Detroit, in late June was moved to the waterfront in preparation for launch later this year. Three other ships, the USS Little Rock, USS Sioux City and USS Wichita, are in various stages of construction and USS Billings is scheduled to begin construction this year.

Marinette Marine’s parent company, Fincantieri Marine Group, in recent years invested more than $74 million to upgrade the facilities at the shipyard to accommodate working on two ships simultaneously. 

In mid-June, Fincantieri named Jan Allman as successor to Chuck Goddard as president, CEO and general manager of Marinette Marine. Allman has extensive manufacturing and operation experience, including leadership roles at Navistar Corporation and Ford. Goddard was promoted to the position of senior vice president for Fincantieri’s Washington operations, leading FMG’s government business development and capture efforts.

 

» West Central

Shawano, Waupaca, Waushara, Marquette, Green Lake Counties

New medical affiliation to benefit rural patients

Community Health Network and Wild Rose Community Memorial Hospital have joined with ThedaCare to better deliver health care services. 

The board of trustees for all three systems approved final contacts and initial service integration was launched June 30. The full integration is expected to be complete by January. 

By teaming with ThedaCare, patients in Waushara, Green Lake, Marquette and Fond du Lac counties will have greater access to care, particularly ThedaCare’s network of specialists. It is expected to control costs by unifying record systems and eliminating duplicative services.

“The changing health care environment is requiring organizations our size to look for ways to enhance health care quality, deliver health care more cost-effectively, reduce duplication and improve the patient experience,” Don Caves, CEO of WRCMH, says. 

Patients will have access to more specialists in the community and a common electronic medical record between their primary care physician, specialists and the hospitals, Dean Gruner, MD, CEO and president of ThedaCare, says. 

“This is an exciting opportunity for Waushara, Green Lake, Marquette and Fond du Lac county residents,” Gruner says. “We will now be able to work together even more than we have in the past to provide the best care possible to people living in our area.”

Other benefits of the affiliation include: 

» Continuation of a strong local voice, including local boards of directors

» A no-layoff philosophy for all employees

» Access to more financial resources

» Participation in quality improvement projects that have led to reduced waiting times, improved patient care and a better patient experience at a lower cost. 

  

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