UP FRONT: Regional Roundup – November 2014

Posted on Nov 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

Economic diversification takes on urgency

The plans are almost ready, and not a minute too soon.

As declining defense spending prompted another round of layoffs within Oshkosh Corporation’s defense segment, initial efforts to help the region soften the blow and use the skills and connections gained from defense contracting to add greater diversity to the regional economy nears completion.

Oshkosh Corp. announced it would eliminate up to 300 hourly and 70 salaried employees as a result of the downward trend. The company had previously cut 1,200 positions as several large military contracts were completed and spending for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq diminished.

To help the region cope with the economic losses, the Department of Defense Office of Economic Assistance awarded an $837,000 grant to help regional economic development planners grow new opportunities for employees, the communities and the nearly 1,400 suppliers also affected.

“We are reaching some conclusions on the planning phases, and there are likely some funding opportunities available to help us with the implementation phase,” says Katherine Ahlquist, an economic development planner with East Central Regional Planning Commission, which is charged with coordinating the planning efforts paid for by the grant.

Some of the projects being funded by the grant include mapping the regional supply chains developed to assist Oshkosh Corp. and other defense contractors and positioning
it so that it can serve a broader group of industries. New North, Inc. is working to create a directory to support the effort.

The Oshkosh region is pursuing plans to create an aerospace supply chain, an effort that included the recent groundbreaking of an aviation business park near Wittman Regional Airport.

The University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh will launch its first business accelerator classes in 2015, and a specific class for aviation-related industries is expected to follow, also in 2015.

Efforts have also been stepped up to provide direct assistance such as ISO certifications, export assistance or strategic repositioning for qualifying companies. As the full effect of the defense cuts takes hold, it’s also possible that more companies could receive help.

While it won’t soften the blow of the latest job cuts, which will take effect in December, the projects under way can set the foundation for a more diverse regional economy going forward.

“It is a larger planning effort, it’s very long-term,” Ahlquist says.

CNG a winner for U.S. Oil

U.S. Oil will ride a wave of increased demand for its compressed natural gas fueling stations well into 2015.

Increased adoption of CNG in fleet vehicles has resulted in the Wisconsin-based company growing to 32 GAIN® Clean Fuel stations open or under construction across the country. The stations are in 15 states, including Wisconsin, and serve some of the busiest carrier routes in the United States.

Of the 15 GAIN stations currently under construction, nine will be operational by the end of the year.

“Our goal is to have more than 100 stations operating within the next two years,” says Bill Renz, general manager for GAIN Clean Fuel. “Many fleets start small with only 10 to 20 CNG trucks, but as they see the benefits, they’re ready to make a more significant investment in CNG.”

U.S. Oil strategically locates both near many of the major trucking facilities and also adjacent to major trucking routes.

Renz says CNG is a cost-effective alternative to diesel fuel, offering savings of more than $2 per gallon. The fuel is also domestically produced and has lower carbon emissions.

A complete list of GAIN Clean Fuel stations can be found at www.gainfuel.com.

 

 

» The Northwoods

Florence, Marinette, Menominee, Oconto Counties

BPM Inc. earns recognition for energy efficiency

BPM Inc. of Peshtigo received national honors for surpassing its energy-saving goals ahead of schedule.

The company was recognized at this year’s World Energy Engineering Congress for its success in the Department of Energy’s Better Plants Program. Since joining the program in 2009, BPM has reduced its energy intensity by 30 percent, surpassing its original pledge of 25 percent over a 10-year period.

BPM manufactures specialty papers and converted material for the food service and packaging industries. The company is an active participant in efficiency programs offered by Wisconsin Public Service Corporation and Focus on Energy, a statewide program for energy efficiency and renewable energy.

BPM has saved an estimated 69 million kWh and 3.3 million Therms of energy per year. Since collaborating with Focus on Energy in 2001, BPM has received nearly $700,000 in energy-saving incentives by installing energy efficient compressed air systems, lighting, a pump system, and various process efficiency technologies.

“Focus on Energy is an excellent resource for us to develop tools and implement energy efficiencies into our paper manufacturing,” says Jim Koronkiewicz, BPM’s general manager. “The energy intensity reduction is credited to our partnership with the Better Plants Program, Focus on Energy, Wisconsin Public Service and our employees’ dedication to a successful mill.”

 

» The Lakeshore

Door, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Sheboygan Counties

Ironwood expansion could mean up to 80 jobs

Ironwood Plastics Inc. announced a $19 million expansion that will recycle a vacant production facility and potentially add up to 80 new jobs in Two Rivers.

The first phase of the expansion project involves purchasing the 27,000-square-foot former Omega Manufacturing building next door to the company’s current facility and installing additional production machinery. That $6 million project will occur during the next year and is expected to add 40 new jobs.

A potential second phase involves a building expansion and additional production equipment, and is expected to occur within five years. That project would cost an estimated $13 million and is expected to create another 40 jobs.

“With Ironwood’s current rate of growth, more plant capacity was essential, and we feel very fortunate to be able to expand into a top-quality building the size we were seeking adjacent to our existing high-performance plant,” says Rick Faustich, president of Ironwood.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation will provide a $400,000 zero-interest loan. If the company creates 80 new jobs, retains its existing 34 positions and makes at least $19 million in capital investment, $200,000 of the loan will be forgiven. The City of Two Rivers will invest $120,000 in 5.8 acres of vacant land, which will be deeded to the company for $1 upon completion of phase one and after Ironwood has created and retained at least 40 new jobs for one year.

“There is a pretty good degree of optimism that there will be an expansion,” says Greg Buckley, the  city manager for Two Rivers. “Everything is sized right and it’s a pretty innovative approach.”

Once the company completes phase one, the city-owned land becomes part of a 12-acre campus with two manufacturing plants, increasing the opportunity for future growth, Buckley says.

Ironwood Plastics opened its first plant in Two Rivers in 1987. The company makes custom, injection molded plastic parts for several industries.

Photo courtesy of Manitowoc Co.

Photo courtesy of Manitowoc Co.

Manitowoc Crane delivers 400th crawler crane

The 400th Manitowoc 2250 crawler crane, similar to the one pictured, built at its factory in Manitowoc, was delivered in September to Fincantieri Marine Group’s Bay Shipbuilding division in Sturgeon Bay. One of the company’s most popular crawler crane models, the Manitowoc 2250 is used in a wide range of industries on multiple continents.

 

 

» West Central

Shawano, Waupaca, Waushara, Marquette, Green Lake Counties

Investing in a sound startup

There is more than water making waves in rural Green Lake County.

Princeton Audio, a company making hand-crafted high-fidelity wireless audio systems, has made enough noise to attract the attention of the Tri-County Regional Economic Development Corp., which recently made a $25,000 equity investment to help the new company secure patents and develop prototypes necessary to launch its new products.

Princeton Audio is the latest venture of Michael Pelland, former CEO of Fusion Studio, who recently relocated to the Princeton area. The company will use local craftsmen and raw materials for its audio products. “Both my wife and I are committed to the area,” Pelland says. “We are dedicated to bringing jobs and technology to the area. It is an excellent place to live.”

The company has also launched a crowdfunding campaign through indiegogo: www.indiegogo.com/projects/princeton-audio.

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