Since We Last Met January 2012

Since We Last Met is a digest of business related news occurring in the Green Bay, Fox Cities, Oshkosh and Fond du Lac areas in the one month since the previous issue of New North B2B.

November 22

The City of Fond du Lac City Council passed a $29.4 million budget for 2012 that keeps the Taylor Park Pool open next year and restores about a third of the funding initially cut from the public library. The new budget levies $20.5 million on taxpayers, setting a tax rate of $7.93 for every $1,000 of assessed property valuation. The new city budget also eliminates the city assessor’s office and assigns that department’s duties to a private contractor.


November 22

The City of Menasha Plan Commission approved plans for a proposed $2 million, 17-unit private student housing project on Midway Road near the University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley. The project being pursued by a Neenah development firm could eventually include a 56-unit complex built in four phases over the next two years. The first phase of construction could be completed by June and provide housing for up to 60 students. The development firm also plans to have a fulltime resident director live on site to promote student activities. UW-Fox does not have any on-campus housing for students.


November 23

Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. indicated Winona Foods, Inc. in Green Bay is eligible for up to $75,000 in economic development tax credits through its $1.6 million expansion project which is expected to create up to 27 jobs. The expansion will include additional production space and new capital equipment for the maker and supplier of high-quality cheese.


November 23

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation wrapped up work and opened the new $13.6 million County Road RK project which created a new south frontage road along State Road 29 between County Road J and Packerland Drive west of the highways 41 and 29 interchange in Brown County. The project, which began in May, included a new County J underpass at Highway 29 and a roundabout at the intersection of county roads J and RK. The project also included a new bridge crossing Duck Creek.


November 23

The bipartisan 12-member Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, also referred to as “the supercommittee,” indicated it would be unable to reach an agreement to cut spending and cut the federal deficit by at least $1.2 trillion over the next nine years.


November 29

The Wisconsin Employment Transportation Assistance Program issued more than $3.6 million in grants to various local agencies for programs that connect low income workers with jobs through enhanced local transit services. Local recipients and programs include: Advocap, serving Calumet, Fond du Lac, Green Lake and Winnebago counties, $144,944 for vehicle purchase and repair loans, vehicle repair grants and mobility management; CAP Services, serving Outagamie County, $48,256 for vehicle purchase and repair loans; City of Appleton, $181,977 for Valley Transit; and Forward Service-Brown County, $100,930 for vehicle repair loans, mobility management, vanpooling and driver’s license recovery.


December 1

Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson formally kicked off his campaign for U.S. Senate to fill the seat being vacated by Sen. Herb Kohl, who has held the post for 24 years. Thompson served as governor for 14 years from 1987 to 2001 when he was appointed Secretary of Health and Human Services under President George W. Bush. Other candidates seeking the seat at this point include Republicans Rep. Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon), the speaker of the Assembly, and former Congressman Mark Neumann, who opposed Gov. Scott Walker for the party nomination for governor in 2010. The only Democrat running is U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Madison).


December 2

The U.S. Department of Labor reported 120,000 new jobs were created in November, dropping the national unemployment rate by four-tenths of a point to 8.6 percent. Employment climbed in retail trade, leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, and health care, while government employment continued to trend down.


December 6

Gov. Scott Walker signed Assembly Bill 1 which increases the amount available for the Jobs Now Tax Credit from $5 million to $10 million beginning in the 2013-14 fiscal year. Under the program, employers who create jobs can claim tax credits based on the wages paid to new employees and on certain training costs. The credit is 10 percent of qualified new employee wages or $10,000, whichever is less. To qualify, new jobs must pay annual wages of at least $20,000.


December 6

Appleton Mayor Tim Hanna announced plans to seek a fifth four-year term in office in April. Hanna was first elected mayor in 1996. Other candidates for the office include Ald. Curt Konetzke and Don Geenen. A primary election will be held Feb. 21.


December 7

The Profitable Sustainability Initiative, managed by the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership, admitted 30 manufacturers across the state into its program, including MCL Industries of Pulaski, Oshkosh Door Co., Oshkosh Plating Services, Resource One International of Little Chute, and The C.A. Lawton Company of De Pere. The sustainability initiative is designed to help small and mid-size manufacturers in Wisconsin develop sustainable practices that save money and improve competitiveness.


December 7

The Oshkosh Board of Education set a $13 million public referendum for April 3 to replace the aging Oaklawn Elementary School. A concept design for the proposed $20 million, 68,000-sq. ft. school includes 30 classrooms outfitted with Smartboards and space to educate up to 460 students. If approved by voters in April, the measure is estimated to add between 12 to 20 cents to the school district’s tax rate annually for the life of the construction loan.


December 7

Kaukauna Utilities presented a $37 million hydroelectric facility proposal which would replace four total generators – two which are 103 years old each and two at 85 years old – with two modern generators that will increase output by 25 percent. The utility commission would borrow on 20-year bonds to finance the project. Kaukauna Utilities produces an estimated 20 percent of its energy from its hydroelectric plants.


December 8

Aver Informatics of De Pere and Frozen Codebase LLC of Green Bay were both certified for the Qualified New Business Venture program through the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., allowing investors in these companies eligibility for a 25 percent tax credit on the amount they invest. Aver Informatics was formed in 2010 to develop software for the healthcare industry for pre and post-claim identification of errant or fraudulent claim submissions. It projects adding up to 29 fulltime jobs during the next three years. Frozen Codebase is a video game developer established in 2006.


December 9

Albany International Corp. announced plans to shut down operations at its Menasha forming fabric facility beginning in January, resulting in the loss of 48 jobs. Company officials said all employees will be offered severance and outplacement assistance.


December 13

The Federal Reserve Board again decided to keep the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4 percent, noting some improvement in overall labor market conditions, as well as some advancement in household spending. However, the committee did note the housing sector remains depressed and it anticipates economic conditions will warrant keeping the federal funds rate low through at least mid-2013.


December 13

The Green Bay Redevelopment Authority approved a plan from General Capital Group of the Milwaukee area to invest $12 million in Larsen Green – a series of four former vegetable processing plant buildings on North Broadway – to build 60 apartments and various commercial spaces. In approving the measure, the RDA gave its blessing to a proposed $600,000 tax incremental finance district to help fund the project, which will go to the city council for a final approval. As part of the agreement, On Broadway will move its offices into the completed Larsen Green project, which will include apartments, retail space and a public market. The developers are also seeking affordable housing tax credits from the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority, which could be a critical factor in financing the project.


December 13

The Outagamie County Board of Supervisors tabled a decision to provide $45,000 toward the cost of a study analyzing the assets and infrastructure of the idle NewPage paper mill in Kimberly, which closed in 2008, putting 600 people out of work. Such a study could help market the property to other manufacturing firms for potential reuse of the site. The City of Kimberly has pledged $50,000 toward the cost of the study, and Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. offered another $25,000.


December 15

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Wisconsin lost 14,600 jobs in November, including 11,700 private-sector jobs and 2,900 public-sector jobs. Wisconsin’s seasonally adjusted November unemployment rate was 7.3 percent, down from 7.7 percent in October.


December 16

Mercury Marine in Fond du Lac paid a special one-time bonus to about 1,200 of its hourly workers based on the length of service over the past year. The bonuses for someone who worked over the entire year reportedly were around $1,200. Company officials said the bonuses were paid due to a productive year for the company and in appreciation for the compromises employees made during the past two years to help bring additional production to its Fond du Lac facilities.


December 19

A collaboration between Green Bay-based Bellin Health, Appleton-based ThedaCare and a network of nearly 700 physicians was selected by the federal Center for Medicare Services to pilot a payment program designed to improve healthcare services for Medicare patients. Bellin Health-ThedaCare Healthcare Partners was one of 32 groups selected nationwide to pioneer the Accountable Care Organization model, which is part of the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act. The ACO model determines payment to the healthcare provider based on achieving specific goals including process measures, clinical outcomes and patient satisfaction scores with the goal of saving money while improving care quality and outcomes.


December 20

The Village of Ashwaubenon decided to opt out of a study looking at the possible efficiencies of consolidating fire departments in the Green Bay metro area. Only De Pere has contributed $10,000 toward the cost of the study, which could also include the municipalities of Allouez, Bellevue, Green Bay and Howard. Those organizing the study suggest that a consolidated fire department could reduce response times and make staffing and capital equipment purchasing more efficient. Ashwaubenon officials indicated a consolidated fire department wouldn’t help the village because its officers are trained for policing as well as fire and rescue, and participating in regional fire services would require the village to create a separate police department.