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APPLETON - City seeks to join 'arms race' for convention space
Proponents of a $27 million exhibition center in downtown Appleton are confident it will bring a strong return on investment, but naysayers contend the project is a mistake fueled by inflated financial expectations.

Those who are pushing for the Fox Cities Exhibition Center say it is financially viable. They say the center can become a reality with modest investments to attract visitor spending that will reverberate across several communities. If Appleton doesn't invest now, it's giving up on the convention game, they argue.

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APPLETON - Fox Cities promoters want to raise hotel room tax
In the coming months, promoters of a downtown exhibition center and an indoor sports complex will seek to raise the room tax in the Fox Cities to 9 percent or 10 percent, the maximum allowed by state law.

Currently, room taxes at area hotels and motels are 5 percent or 6 percent.

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ASHWAUBENON - Residence Inn by Marriott planned in Ashwaubenon
Residence Inn by Marriott is returning to the Green Bay metro area.

A new Residence Inn is in the planning stages. It will be on South Broadway in Ashwaubenon, just north of Marina Lane and the Aloft Green Bay hotel. The site plan received conditional approval from the village last week.

A Residence Inn was at 335 W. St. Joseph St. in Allouez for many years, before switching affiliation to Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham.

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SHARON - North Carolina business owner's potential move to village on hold by DNR
A hobby retailer based in North Carolina could set up shop in the village of Sharon if the state Department of Natural Resources approves.

Dan Hill, owner of HopMeUp and AltaRail, hopes to relocate part of his online businesses to Wisconsin by November 2014.

The DNR in September 2013 found “low levels” of contamination from an underground fuel tank and arsenic from a local foundry during environmental assessments of the vacant warehouse site Hill wants to use, he said.

Hill is waiting for instructions on how to get clearance to finalize his contract.

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OSHKOSH – City looks to lure aviation businesses to Wittman Regional Airport
Federal, state and local governments, as well as the business community, have funded efforts to develop an 80-acre aviation business park at the southeast end of Wittman Regional Airport, a related business accelerator program, regional coordination and studies to identify aerospace industry clusters to recruit to the airport.

Local aviation industry partners applaud the effort, but also say it will require aggressive recruitment, careful planning, foresight and some luck as they pursue growth in an industry that's showing signs of struggle in many sectors.

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BEAVER DAM - YMCA of Dodge County plans to wipe out $6.65 million debt
YMCA of Dodge County unveiled a plan Friday to retire $6.65 million in debt that is built on major gifts from Horicon Bank and the Schwertfeger family.

Since 2012, Horicon Bank has made most of the interest payments on the debt the YMCA carries as result of the $12 million facility it built and opened in 2007. Horicon Bank has committed to continue paying the interest, but that is the tip of the iceberg.

The YMCA announced that the Schwertfeger family has donated $1 million for debt retirement and that Horicon Bank has committed to providing a $2 million match for donations received by the end of the year. In addition, the YMCA has received commitments for $355,000 from its board of directors and $700,000 from Chuck and Randy Neuman.

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LA CROSSE – $68 million mixed use development pitched for downtown La Crosse
It was a long but productive day for Don Weber. A La Crosse County committee gave a preliminary nod Thursday to Weber Holdings’ $68 million proposal to build offices, retail space and 94 housing units on the 2.3-acre downtown parking area known as Lot C.

The firm, led by Logistics Health Inc. CEO and Riverside Center developer Weber, was the committee’s narrow but consensus choice over a combined plan by Borton Construction, Three Sixty Real Estate Solutions and Doerflinger building owner/renovator Mike Keil. Doran Companies of Bloomington, Minn., was taken out of the running early among the three finalists after 5½ hours of interviews Thursday afternoon.

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LA CROSSE - Weber wants city help on hotel project
Don Weber said Thursday he will seek city financial assistance to help convert a 116-year-old former candy factory into a multi-million-dollar luxury boutique hotel in downtown La Crosse.

The CEO and founder of Logistics Health Inc. in La Crosse told the city’s Economic Development Commission he now intends to sink $25 million into the property at 101 State St., home to the Joseph B. Funke Candy Co. from 1898 to 1933 and more recently the Ross Furniture store.

The original project estimate of about $15 million was before his development company realized the magnitude of the work involved, restoring original maple floors and brick walls while addressing modern hotel needs such as soundproofing, Weber and his associates said.

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FOND DU LAC - Con-way Freight opens new Fond du Lac service center
Con-way Freight dedicated a new $8 million service center at Fond du Lac's Fox Ridge Business Park on Wednesday before a crowd of employees, customers and local officials.

The facility serves as the local hub from which the company provides daily freight pickup and delivery services for businesses throughout the Fond du Lac region and surrounding communities.

Located at 1674 Fox Ridge Drive and visible from Highway 41, the 47,000-square-foot freight facility has more than 100 employees in jobs that include driver sales representatives, operations support, sales, customer service and administration.

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GREEN BAY - Packers consider variable ticket pricing for 2015
Green Bay Packers ticket holders could be introduced to the mysteries of variable ticket pricing as early as next season.

Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy told shareholders Thursday he anticipates the team would introduce variable pricing next year. After the meeting, he said 10 or more NFL teams are using variable pricing to some degree. Variable ticket pricing means, for example, the team would charge less for preseason games and more for marquee match-ups during the season, such as with the Chicago Bears.

The annual shareholders' meeting at Lambeau Field drew more than 14,000 team owners and guests under sunny skies.

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LA CROSSE - City still seeking developers for Riverside North
Lack of response from developers Thursday forced city of La Crosse officials to rethink their approach to finding offers on the 65-acre Riverside North site.

Redevelopment plans for the city-owned property are nearly two decades in the making.

Designs released this spring boasted an estimated $90 million of development opportunities hidden away in the stretch of land along Copeland Avenue, north of the La Crosse River.

A three-week window for interested developers closed Thursday without garnering a single response, but members of the city’s Redevelopment Authority were undeterred. They agreed to restart the process, this time allowing a 60-day period for submissions and allocating up to $2,000 to advertise the project nationally.

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STOUGHTON – Opponents of Stoughton Wal-Mart development question economics of TIF
A proposed Stoughton development that would include a Wal-Mart Supercenter on the western edge of town is unlikely to get underway this year, but it hasn’t stopped disagreement between a group of residents and the mayor’s staff.

The Stoughton City Council in January approved a development agreement with Verona ’s Forward Development Group to build Kettle Park West, a multi-stage project that would include commercial, residential and business components, on 35 acres of recently annexed land at the northwest corner of the intersection of Highways 51 and 138.

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LA CROSSE - Plan offered for fitness complex south of Famous Dave's
The owner of Snap Fitness-Bluffside on Hwy. 16 has asked for city funds to open a more expansive, “one-step” fitness and wellness center on undeveloped land to the north.

Kara Schuster requested up to $350,000 in tax incremental financing from the La Crosse Economic Development Commission to build a $3.5 million facility on 12th Avenue South off Hwy. 16, just south of the retail area that includes Famous Dave’s and Grizzly’s restaurants.

The complex would be 33,000 square feet, with the Snap franchise along with a turf training area, synthetic ice rink, basketball and volleyball court, and other space and equipment designed for specialized training and workouts, Schuster said.

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MANITOWOC - Manitowoc Co. prevails in patent dispute
The Manitowoc Co. appears to have prevailed in a patent infringement complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission.

The company filed a complaint in 2013 alleging that Sany Heavy Industry Co. Ltd. and Sany America Inc. were selling crawler cranes in the United States that infringed on its patents. An ITC administrative law judge issued a notice of initial determination that supported the complaint.

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MADISON - Wisconsin farmers set record for cranberry harvest
Wisconsin cranberry farmers increased production by 25 percent last year to harvest a record 6 million barrels.

That's according to U.S. Department of Agriculture figures released Thursday by Gov. Scott Walker's office.

Walker says Wisconsin harvested two-thirds of the nation's cranberries last year and three times as much as Massachusetts, the second-largest cranberry producer.

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