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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

MaryBeth Matzek: Effort seeks to bring residency training program to Shawano

By MaryBeth Matzek
Studies show that Wisconsin is in desperate need of doctors – especially primary care physicians. A 2011 report by the Wisconsin Hospital Association estimates there will be a shortage of 2,000 doctors by 2030. That study led the Medical College of Wisconsin, in part, to open two new satellite campuses -- one in Green Bay that opens this fall and one in central Wisconsin, which opens in 2016.

A Shawano-based organization is now looking to help ease the doctor crunch as well. The Shawano Residency Training Program reached an agreement with the city of Shawano last month to turn the soon-to-be vacant Shawano Medical Center into a residency training facility.

ThedaCare will move out of the facility this fall when it opens a new hospital, ThedaCare Medical Center-Shawano. The Appleton-based healthcare organization worked with the city of Shawano on coming up with a development plan for the 11-acre site.

City Administrator Brian Knapp says a development group led by Todd Schultz approached the city looking to use the site for a training site for doctors.

"Once it's up and running, we estimate it will create about 100 jobs, according to what the developers told us," Knapp says.

Dorothy Erdmann, president and CEO of Shawano Medical Center, says ThedaCare worked with the city to identify redevelopment options for the site.

"In the spirit of our partnership with the city, ThedaCare will essentially donate the Shawano hospital building and about six acres of land to the development in return for releasing ThedaCare of all future liabilities associated with the existing building and land and the development of the property," she says.

Dr. Johnathan Boy, who previously served with the U.S. Army for 22 years and is the project's director of development, says details and specifics are still being worked out about just how the program will work.

Knapp says the group outlined a plan to city leaders that would bring medical students to Shawano to be trained at the residency facility. "Another goal is that it will train new doctors who will decide to stay in the area and practice," he says.

Research award

Two University of Wisconsin-Whitewater faculty members received a $400,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for their work on improving economic development in areas with a large minority population.

Russ Kashian, an economics professor, and Richard McGregory, assistant vice chancellor of multicultural affairs and student success, received the two-year grant for their project, "Building Communities of Color with Minority-Owned Banks: A Racial Equity Proposal." Two years ago, the duo received national attention for work showing the important role minority banks play in neighborhoods.

The new research project focuses on determining best practices for banks to serve disadvantaged communities. Kashian, McGregory and student researchers will review best practices of efficient, socially responsive minority-owned banks across the United States. Another project goal is to identify bank deserts – places ripe for minority-owned bank expansion.

Shopko debuts new brand

Ashwaubenon-based Shopko will roll out a new brand in its 100-plus stores across the Midwest this fall. The new tagline – "The Stuff That Counts" – goes along with a new color scheme that executives hope will create a better connection between the store and its consumers.

The new brand comes as the company plans an aggressive campaign to move into smaller markets during the next three years. Shopko currently has 343 stores in 25 states.

-- Matzek, a freelance writer and editor, is the owner of 1Bizzy Writer. She has worked in the past as a news editor at Insight Publications and as business editor at the Appleton Post-Crescent.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

MaryBeth Matzek: Progress Lakeshore takes unique approach to train manufacturing workforce


By MaryBeth Matzek
It's no secret that manufacturers have jobs they can't fill. It's something Peter Willis, executive director of Progress Lakeshore, often hears when he meets with local companies.

"There are 250 positions unfilled right now among our local manufacturers, but we still have an unemployment rate of 6.2 percent – that tells us there are jobs out there, but people don't have the training to get those jobs," Willis says. "We really wanted to develop a program to give the underemployed, the unemployed and high school grads the opportunity to get the training necessary for those jobs."

The result is a six-week program that allows attendees to earn a Certified Production Technician Certification during an intensive six-week course. The students attend class from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. four days a week. After completion, they'll be qualified for jobs that typically pay between $10 to $14 an hour. Fourteen local employers already committed to interviewing graduates and see if they're a good fit for their openings.

Manitowoc County Production Technician Boot Camp combines a traditional classroom experience and hands-on training in a mobile lab. Lakeshore Technical College faculty members and staff provide the training at its campus at the Manitowoc Job Center.

"We wanted to make the program as accessible as possible so we are running it here in Manitowoc," says Willis, adding Progress Lakeshore is offering the class this summer and again hopefully in the fall as well as next summer.

Students pay $300 and companies contribute $850 towards the program if they hire a program graduate. A Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development Fast Forward Grant picks up the rest of the program cost. LTC helped get the state funds, Willis adds. In addition to a job, participants also receive college credit for their participation and a Manufacturing Skill Standards Certification that's recognized nationwide by employers.

Unlike in other areas with similar fast-track training programs, in Manitowoc it is Progress Lakeshore – an economic development organization -- taking the lead and running the program. Willis say that's an important distinction.

"We wanted to become more involved with the program. We did a strategic review a few months ago and talked about how we can help our employers meet their needs so they can grow," he says. "This is one way we can directly do this and meet employers' needs."

Willis hopes the program raises awareness about the employment opportunities in manufacturing and helps dispel myths that it's a "dirty" job in a failing industry. "Those couldn't be further from the truth. Manufacturing facilities are modern, clean and have a lot of available jobs," he says. "This program could open the door into this industry for these students. They can start here and then go on and get additional training and move into other positions."

Not enough funds

A plan by Tanesay Development to crowdfund a new 750-seat entertainment venue in Appleton didn't gather enough interest, but that doesn't mean the facility, which would be built along the Fox River, won't happen. Developer Mark Geall says he'll now look to traditional funding methods to help pay for the $3 million project, which is part of his RiverHeath development.

Back in May, Geall announced a plan to raise $2 million using crowdfunding for the project using Act 52, which legalized crowdfunding in the state for real estate projects. He already secured $1 million from traditional financing sources.

Bank recognition

County Bancorp, the holding company for Investors Community Bank in Manitowoc, is the newest addition to the American Bankers Association's NASDAQ Community Bank Index. County Bancorp, which trades under the ICBK symbol, went public earlier this year. The ABA's NASDAQ Community Bank index is the most broadly representative stock index for U.S. community banks and includes about 3,763 banks across the country.

In addition to its headquarters in Manitowoc, Investors Community Bank it has a facility in Stevens Point and loan production offices in Fond du Lac, Eau Claire and Darlington.

-- Matzek, a freelance writer and editor, is the owner of 1Bizzy Writer. She has worked in the past as a news editor at Insight Publications and as business editor at the Appleton Post-Crescent.


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

MaryBeth Matzek: Soccer tournaments bring in tourism dollars


By MaryBeth Matzek
When you think of sports and tourism dollars in Wisconsin, the Green Bay Packers and Wisconsin Badgers jump to the top of the list. But beyond those economic powerhouses, cities across the state look to athletes who are a bit younger to amp up their tourism dollars. Youth soccer, basketball, volleyball and baseball teams can easily fill hotel rooms and restaurants when local venues host tournaments.

Take the U.S. Youth Soccer Region II Championships, which are being played this month on fields in Appleton and De Pere. More than 3,500 players and their families need someplace to sleep and eat. The Fox Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau estimates those soccer players and spectators translate to $6.5 million in visitor spending, including 12,000 nights of hotel bookings.

Tournaments that don't quite have that level of prestige – winners of the Region II Championship advance to nationals – also contribute heavily to a community's economic vitality. For example, our family recently traveled from Appleton to Madison for the three-day tournament at the Reddan Soccer Park in Verona, just outside of Madison. Our team stayed in a hotel packed with other soccer teams, we ate and shopped at local venues. One of the teams at our hotel came from Minnesota and one of those parents told me they view the soccer tournament as one of their family vacations.

Jamie Patrick, vice president of the Madison Area Sports Commission, says soccer tournaments at Reddan as well as other youth athletic events are an integral part of the area's economy. "The games may be in Verona, but it has a huge impact on the county as people sleep, eat and shop everywhere," he says, adding that the seven tournaments at Reddan this year are expected to result in $2.5 million in direct spending.

The sporting events help fill hotel rooms that during the week serve business and convention clients, Patrick adds. "It's really a smart piece to the entire economic picture," he says.

Madison isn't alone. Stevens Point, which is hosting a large youth soccer tournament June 19-21, expects to see roughly $280,000 in visitor spending from the weekend, says Melissa Sabel, director of marketing for the Stevens Point Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. Those numbers are based on a 2012 survey that looked at how much attendees and their families spent while in town for the tournament. Teams that came from more than 60 miles away are likely to spend two nights in a hotel, shop and eat locally. Teams that are closer and just traveling to Stevens Point for the games are still likely to spend money on eating out, shopping and getting gas.

"We view the youth sporting events as a vital part of our tourism mix," Sabel says. "It also introduces people to our community and they may come back as visitors."

Sabel also puts together a list of activities and attractions that families can visit in between soccer games. "We want to give them some options during the downtime," she says.

Patrick says the tourism business related to youth sports managed to stay strong even when business and convention travel – not to mention leisure travel – declined during the economic downturn.

"Parents still want their children to have these great experiences and are willing to give up on other things, such as a family vacation, so they will decide instead to attend a soccer tournament so their child can be with their teammates," he says.

New project for downtown Green Bay

A $5.5 million condominium and retail project in Green Bay is closer to realization. DeLeers Construction in De Pere and Creative Business Services in Green Bay put together a project plan that recently won approval from the Redevelopment Authority of Green Bay. It won out over other competing ideas for retail and high-end apartments.

The project – which will be called The Barracks at Fort Howard and will be located on N. Broadway Street -- includes 3,000 square feet of retail space, underground parking and an undetermined number of condo units. The developers plan to break ground next spring on the project.

Insurance moves

Arise Health Plan and AboutHealth, a statewide health organization, are teaming up to offer its own co-branded health care and insurance products.

AboutHealth is an accountable care organization (ACO) comprised of Aspirus, Aurora Health Care, Bellin Health, Gundersen Health System, ProHealth Care, ThedaCare and UW Health. ACOs are designed to make it easier for patients to access high-quality, affordable health care across the state.

Under the deal, Arise and AboutHealth will offer co-branded individual and group coverage with AboutHealth providers starting in 2016. The partners will also offer individual and small group plans on the federal health care marketplace.


-- Matzek, a freelance writer and editor, is the owner of 1Bizzy Writer. She has worked in the past as a news editor at Insight Publications and as business editor at the Appleton Post-Crescent.

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Sunday, June 7, 2015

MaryBeth Matzek: Director in place to helm new Oshkosh economic development organization


By MaryBeth Matzek
When Jason White took over as CEO of the brand new Greater Oshkosh Economic Development Corporation or GO-EDC, he realized right away it wasn't your typical start-up organization. The organization was created in 2014 by business, community and education leaders looking to strengthen the region's economy.

"The group had the support that other organizations take years to get," says White, who came to Oshkosh from the Warren County Economic Development Corporation in Iowa where he served as executive director. "The leaders had a solid plan and knew what the organization's values were. They put in a lot of legwork."

While GO-EDC is still in its infancy, the idea for the organization had been in the works for years. Previously, economic development functions were scattered among different entities. Now, a single organization guides those efforts.

"The area really needed a single organization that brings all the players to the table to help businesses with their needs," White says.

Since Oshkosh has such a strong manufacturing base, White is building relationships with local employers to make sure they have what they need to be successful. "We need to take care of the businesses we have and nurture them," he says.

GO-EDC's other goal, of course, is to attract new businesses – and jobs -- to the region.

"We're mainly looking at businesses that help or serve the industries we have here," White says. "If a company is doing business with someone out of the area, is there a way we can provide that service locally, for example?"

The organization has a $2.1 million revolving loan fund set up with proceeds from recently closed city of Oshkosh TIF districts. Those funds will be used "as gap funding to help businesses grow and expand locally," White says.

Looking to the future, GO-EDC has four main objectives: increasing the number of aerospace related businesses (the city has a new aviation business park); strengthening the manufacturing sector; growing the number of information services businesses; and helping second-stage entrepreneurs.

"Some of that (helping entrepreneurs) could be through the revolving loan fund or working with the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and their business accelerator," White says. "There are a lot of tools and resources we can use to help businesses."

White says GO-EDC is working with UW-Oshkosh, Fox Valley Technical College, the city, Winnebago County and the local chamber, among others, to help the area's economy grow. "We recognize that everyone has different resources they can bring to the table and our job is to coordinate those resources so when we hear of a possible lead on a new business, for example, we can put together an attractive, professional response and convince them to come to Oshkosh," he says. "For our current businesses, it's about what can we do to help them grow?"

White's enjoying the challenge of serving as the organization's first professional CEO and is out meeting as many people as possible. "We're a start-up and there's still a lot of work to do. We're out there connecting with businesses and our stakeholders and sharing our message."

Menasha Corp. buys Canadian packager

Menasha Corp. of Neenah purchased Portable Packaging Systems Inc. of Mississauga, Ontario, for an undisclosed price.

The company will operate as part of Menasha Packaging Canada L.P., a subsidiary of Menasha Corp.

Like Menasha Packaging, Portable Packaging designs promotional packaging and displays for retailers and consumer packaged goods companies, and provides material sourcing, assembly, repacking, fulfillment and distribution services. Both companies also focus on the food, household and personal care markets, making the deal a good fit, says Jim Kotek, president and CEO of Menasha Corp.

"Acquiring an additional company in Canada that is well-aligned with our values and business model provides Menasha Packaging with additional capabilities and resources to meet the growing needs of CPG customers in North America," he says.

SBA honors

The Wisconsin Women's Business Initiative Corporation received the 2015 Regional SBA Women's Business Center Service Excellence Award. WWBIC was selected from SBA Women's Business Centers in Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota and Indiana. 

With locations in Milwaukee, Madison, Racine, Kenosha, and northwestern Wisconsin, the WWBIC helps low wealth individuals building assets and improve their self-sufficiency. Last year, the group worked with more than 980 businesses and made $5.8 more than $2 million in SBA lending, to small businesses.

-- Matzek, a freelance writer and editor, is the owner of 1Bizzy Writer. She has worked in the past as a news editor at Insight Publications and as business editor at the Appleton Post-Crescent.

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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

MaryBeth Matzek: Oshkosh suppliers slowly moving forward after Defense Department cuts


By MaryBeth Matzek
It's been just over a year since a coalition led by the East Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission outlined a strategy to deal with layoffs at Oshkosh Truck, one of the largest employers in eastern Wisconsin, and the domino effect those cuts would have at companies throughout the region.

With cuts in military spending the reason for Oshkosh Truck layoffs, the U.S. Department of Defense awarded the planning commission and its partners $1.837 million in grants to help diversify the economy. The commission assembled a team including the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, the city of Oshkosh, New North Inc. and others to look at ways to help the businesses who worked with Oshkosh Truck find new markets for their services.

The first two steps included putting together an economic diversification study and mapping the defense industry's supply chain in the region. Connie Loden, senior project manager with New North Inc., a regional economic development corporation, led the mapping of companies within the region who worked with the defense industry, whether it was Oshkosh Truck or Marinette Marine. New North created its Defense Industry Supply Chain initiative to help companies look at new markets while diversifying their products and services.

A directory listing companies open to new markets is now being put together. It will include contact information and specifics about what the individual businesses can do.

Loden reached out to other markets and industries that would utilize the same skill sets as the Defense industry, including the Milwaukee Water Council. The next step is bringing together those suppliers and the companies to share information and see how they may possibly work together at educational sessions this summer and fall.

"The organizations we'll bring in will talk about perhaps some industry specifics they need and companies can think about getting any necessary accreditation or training to meet those needs," Loden says.

She says New North is also looking to connect affected businesses with resources they can tap into as they look to retool for new markets. One example is the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership, which can help businesses obtain any certifications or trainings necessary as they look to get involved with new industries.

As for the diversification study, a big piece of the puzzle was sitting right in Oshkosh: Wittman Airport. For years, the city and Winnebago County discussed creating an 80-acre aviation business park adjacent to the airport. Several aviation industries, including Basler Turbo Conversions and Sonex Aircraft already call the airport area home so expanding on that theme – not to mention Oshkosh is home to the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) – made a lot of sense. Last fall, construction began on adding roads and utilities to the site. UW-Oshkosh also plans to build a building at the park to house its business accelerator program.

ThedaCare earns sustainability award

Appleton-based ThedaCare received a VHA Sustainability Excellence Award for recycling single-use plastics used in its operating rooms.

The items recycled include blue wrap, plastic containers and plastic wrappers; paper and cardboard are also recycled at all ThedaCare facilities.

According to ThedaCare Sustainability Leader Paul Linzmeyer, the operating room project was a partnership with the system's linen company, Gunderson Linen, that picked up and sorted the recyclable plastics and prepared them for shipment to overseas buyers.

VHA Inc. is a national network of not-for-profit hospitals and the nation's leading academic medical centers working together to improve performance and efficiency in clinical, financial and operational management.

Growth mode

Menasha-based Faith Technologies, an electrical, engineering and specialty contractor, is looking to add 800 people to its workforce nationwide by the end of the year. Of the new people being hired, at least 350 will be in the Fox Valley area.

Company officials say growth in the construction sector, including its division that focuses on solutions just for the manufacturing industry, is behind the hiring spree.

Faith is holding job fairs in Neenah, Madison, Milwaukee, Tulsa, Okla., Atlanta and Lexena, Kan., before the end of June. For more about the openings and job fairs, visit http://www.faithtechnologies.com/careers/

-- Matzek, a freelance writer and editor, is the owner of 1Bizzy Writer. She has worked in the past as a news editor at Insight Publications and as business editor at the Appleton Post-Crescent.

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