• WisBusiness

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

MaryBeth Matzek: State-of-the-art training center draws public safety professionals to Appleton


By MaryBeth Matzek
Preparation is essential when it comes to responding to emergencies, but for those working in public safety it's not easy to practice for disasters. A new training facility in the Fox Valley is looking to change that.

Fox Valley Technical College opened a state-of-the-art Public Safety Training Center adjacent to Outagamie County Regional Airport in Appleton earlier this year. The facility provides a place for integrative training for law enforcement, firefighters, paramedics, forensic investigators and wildland firefighters.

"This facility is not only unique in Wisconsin, but nationally," says Aaron Tomlinson, dean of public safety for FVTC. "It brings together multiple disciplines in one location to train. Think about it: law enforcement don't usually respond to an emergency alone and neither do paramedics. They all work together so it's important for them to train together."

The $34.5 million Public Safety Training Center sits on 80 acres of land and its construction was part of a $66.5 million referendum in 2012 that asked taxpayers in FVTC's district to help pay for a variety projects.

An estimated 20,000 public safety professionals from around the world already use FVTC annually for their training and Tomlinson believes the new facility will increase the interest even more. FVTC is known nationally for its training programs on missing persons, AMBER Alerts, Internet crimes against children and human trafficking.

"Since we opened in January, we've been quite busy. We've not only had local and regional groups, but the FBI and the Department of Health & Human Services, too, -- just to name a few," he says.

Some groups bring in their own trainers and "rent" the space while others work with FVTC on developing a unique plan and use college staff to run the trainings.

The training center contains several unique features including River City, a scenario village for emergency response and forensic science applications; indoor and outdoor firing ranges, including one at 300-yards for sniper training; a six-story burn tower that presents several different technical rescue settings; a train derailment prop for hazardous materials training; a FedEx Boeing 727 aircraft for training; and a large emergency vehicle driving range designed for high-speed chases and specialized vehicle training. The facility also has trench training space for FVTC's Wildland Fire program.

"Another neat thing about the center is that our students are also utilizing it and most of them will wind up working locally and it's such a great resource to have such highly training students as they enter the workforce," Tomlinson says.

The center is more than an educational center; it's also an economic driver, with many of the people who train at the center coming into the area from out-of-town and utilizing local hotels, restaurants and stores. "We bring in people from all over to train here," Tomlinson says. "The support we've already received is amazing."

Developer looks to crowdfund entertainment venue

Mark Geall, the developer of RiverHeath, mixed-use project along the Fox River in downtown Appleton, is looking to add a 750-seat concert venue to the site. And he hopes the community will help pay for it.

Geall is looking to raise $2 million to make the Timber Mill project possible in the next 30 days. He is using Wisconsin Act 52 – which went into effect last year and allows crowdfunding for real estate projects – to connect with investors to support the venue. If successful, this would be the first time an entertainment venue in Wisconsin was funded via this method.

Here's how Geall is setting up the project: Potential investors can contribute $1,000. It's a loan to the developers with an expectation that if the project is successful, investors will receive their initial money back, plus 7 percent interest. There's also a $500 option too that allows people to join the Founders' Lounge for five years that gets them a bunch of perks (but no return on investment).

While people can pledge now, the individual contributions will not be collected until the $2 million threshold is met. If the campaign falls short, no money exchanges hands. If the theater is built, but isn't successful investors would likely not receive their total investment back. Geall says the developers are putting $1 million into the $3 million project. For more information, visit the Timber Mill website at http://timbermilltheater.com.

So far, two other Wisconsin businesses – both breweries – have successfully raised money via Act 52.

Business builder

The City of Green Bay was ranked by NerdWallet as one of the top 10 places in America to start a business. The rankings looked at a variety of criteria – Boulder, Colo., took the top spot.

The home to the Green Bay Packers' stood out for its vibrant downtown and ample entertainment opportunities (including that football team) plus the Green Bay Area's Chamber of Commerce's microloan program, which helps start-ups get the funds they need to open their doors.

-- 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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