UP FRONT: Regional Roundup – January 2015

Posted on Jan 1, 2015 :: Up Front
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Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

» Highway 41 Corridor

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

Fox Cities PAC hits milestones, boosts economy

The Fox Cities Performing Arts Center, in downtown Appleton, hosted more than 400 events during the 2013-14 season. Photo courtesy of Fox Cities PAC

The Fox Cities Performing Arts Center, in downtown Appleton, hosted more than 400 events during the 2013-14 season. Photos courtesy of Fox Cities PAC

The epicenter of the Fox Cities creative economy had a good year.

The Fox Cities Performing Arts Center, perhaps the region’s most visible gathering space and catalyst for the emerging creative economy, celebrated several key milestones this past season, including the mark of 2 million ticketed patrons and the 250,000th student to attend its educational programming, according to the PAC’s 2013-14 annual report.

Nine weeks of Broadway performances also generated an estimated $31 million in economic activity, including activities by those attending the shows as well as spending by the cast and crew while in town for productions.

“(The PAC is) a place that brings families, students, businesses and nonprofits to gather, connect and share with one another through the arts,” says Maria Van Laanen, president of the PAC.

During its 2013-14 season, the PAC hosted 400 events that drew 210,000 people to the Fox Cities PAC; nearly 28,000 were first-time visitors.

The Fox Cities Performing Arts Center drew 210,000 people to Appleton during the 2013-14 season, generating nearly $31 million in economic activity for the region.

The Fox Cities Performing Arts Center drew 210,000 people to Appleton during the 2013-14 season, generating nearly $31 million in economic activity for the region.

More than 10 percent of those who visited the PAC last season came from a distance of more than 60 miles, and 3 percent came from out of state, according to the report. Entertainment spending has seen a $3 million-a-year increase since 2010, says Pam Seidl, executive director of the Fox Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“They don’t just come for a show, they come for shopping, dining and everything else we have to offer,” she says.

In addition to its Broadway Series, the PAC hosts a variety of educational and performance events, as well as nonprofit fundraisers such as The Harbor House Domestic Abuse Programs’ 10th Annual “A Time to Laugh” Comedy Night Charity Gala. Nonprofits accounted for 25 percent of the events at the PAC last year.

Overall, PAC events generated about $11.8 million in 2013-14. Event revenues make up about 86 percent of all revenues, with contributions making up the rest of the budget.

 

» The Northwoods

Florence, Marinette, Menominee, Oconto Counties

LCS program survives federal budget deal

In December, outgoing Secretary of the Navy Chuck Hagel recommended the littoral combat ship (LCS) program continue with modified designs rather than scrapping the program. Marinette Marine recently launched the fourth ship built in Wisconsin and has six additional ships under construction. Photo courtesy Marinette Marine/Lockheed Martin

In December, outgoing Secretary of the Navy Chuck Hagel recommended the littoral combat ship (LCS) program continue with modified designs rather than scrapping the program. Marinette Marine recently launched the fourth ship built in Wisconsin and has six additional ships under construction. Photo courtesy Marinette Marine/Lockheed Martin.

The littoral combat ship will continue to sail for the U.S. Navy, and that’s good news for Marinette Marine and its nearly 2,000 employees — at least for now.

In mid-December, outgoing Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced the Navy can move ahead with plans to build upgraded variants of both its current-model littoral combat ships. Hagel had previously instructed the Navy to stop building the LCS and look at other options for the Small Combat Ship program.

With the approval of the upgrades, the Navy will keep in place its plan for the 52-ship class of vessels, with the final number of ships, both current and modified LCS ships to be determined. Previously-built ships will also be modified.

“This is a critical step for our national security, the Navy and Wisconsin,” says U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Wis. “We have some of the best manufacturers in the world hard at work on the LCS.”

What was not specified by Hagel or the Navy is which version of the LCS, the one built by Marinette Marine or the variant built in Alabama, will be the starting design of choice. The Navy could also select new contractors.

Marinette Marine, under contract with Lockheed Martin, is one of two facilities producing the LCS. The company has already launched four of the ships and has six additional ships in various states of production.

Lockheed Martin has submitted a design for the modified LCS program.

Congress approved continuing funding for the program as part of the National Defense Authorization Act.

 

» The Lakeshore

Door, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Sheboygan Counties

New partnership to nurture tourism talent

Lake Michigan area resort operators have teamed up with Lakeland College to grow the tourism talent pool for the region.

Blue Harbor Resort & Spa, The Osthoff Resort and Destination Kohler will collaborate on the partnership, making a number of entry-level positions and internships available to Lakeland hospitality management students.

For the resorts, the partnership addresses challenges of attracting and retaining qualified and dependable employees, especially during holidays and the summer.

“If you ask area executives across all industry sectors what their biggest challenge for the future is, they are likely to respond ‘the availability of a viable workforce,’” says David Sanderson, vice president and general manager of Blue Harbor Resort & Spa in Sheboygan.

“Tourism is no different. With this partnership, we have an opportunity to overcome that challenge, while providing a real-world practical laboratory for students to augment their academic requirements.”

Sanderson says Blue Harbor has hired several Lakeland graduates into management jobs during his four- year tenure and he expects that number to grow.

For Lakeland students, the new program is an opportunity to earn up to $8,000 a year toward the cost of college while also getting industry experience. The jobs are not guaranteed, and students will have to interview for any posted positions.

“Students and parents want to be sure that their investment will end in a job with good pay and benefits that would not be available without earning a college degree,” says Lakeland President Dan Eck. “This partnership could significantly reduce a hard-working student’s debt load, and, in some cases, even completely eliminate student loan debt—a remarkable achievement that will set those students on a road to financial well-being immediately after graduation.”

Lakeland and the resorts will work together on work and classroom scheduling beneficial to the students involved. In some cases, Lakeland may explore holding certain classes on site at the employer’s facilities.

 

» West Central

Shawano, Waupaca, Waushara, Marquette, Green Lake Counties

Ripon Medical Center opens new facility

The new Ripon Medical Center is open for business.

In mid-December, staff and patients began moving into the new facility, which has been under construction since April 2013. The new building is not only larger than its predecessor, but enables RMC to better use that space for its various departments and services.

For example, physician services will be consolidated in a single area just off the new atrium. From there, medical staff and patients can easily access other services such as medical imaging, rehab and the labs.

RMC’s new facility also includes the latest designs for healing spaces, including a meditation room and healing garden, as well as a lot of natural lighting.

“The process started with the design of the new building,” says Katherine Vergos, chief operating officer of RMC. “That started before we even broke ground. It’s been a long and very thoughtful process by literally all those involved with Ripon Medical Center. I’m very proud of that.”

The 120,000-square-foot facility was built at a cost of $44 million and is located just off of Highway 23.

 

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