• WisBusiness

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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