Golf tourney will showcase Sheboygan area’s real estate

    Sheboygan County is on the tee. When the PGA Championship golf tournament comes to the Whistling Straits Golf Course Aug. 9-15, it will present a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to showcase the county to more than 300,000 strangers.
    Many of those golf fans will be corporate executives.
    Dee Olsen, executive director of the Sheboygan County Chamber of Commerce and Convention & Visitors Bureau, hopes to seize the day and show those executives that the Sheboygan area would be the perfect location if they should ever want to expand or relocate their businesses.
    "It’s not every day you have 300,000 people come to visit. It’s a huge, huge opportunity," Olsen said. "We’re working with the PGA staff to make sure we’re connecting with those folks."
    "It’s just unbelievable. Everybody’s extremely focused on being prepared for it," said Nancy Verstrate, executive director of the Sheboygan Falls Chamber of Commerce & Main Street Program. "It’s going to introduce a lot of people to the area that otherwise wouldn’t be here, and we want them to come back again."
    Sheboygan County can use the boost. Several manufacturers in the county have either closed doors or shipped many of their production jobs overseas to cheaper labor, leaving vacant industrial space throughout the county.
    Meanwhile, big-box retailers have sucked the life out of several local merchants, according to Paul Gottsacker, president of Gottsacker Commercial Real Estate, Sheboygan.
    "I don’t know how much more Sheboygan can handle," Gottsacker said. "I don’t know how much more big-box retail Sheboygan can support."
    A huge Target store is slated to open in March at Kohler’s Deer Trace Plaza, which already is home to a Home Depot store, and a Wal-Mart Super Center was recently built along Highway 57 in Plymouth.
    Now, commercial real estate sources say, Wal-Mart is shopping around the area to open another Super Center in the county.
    "They are just doing some inquiries, as far as what they can get from the municipalities," Verstrate said.
    Although some manufacturers have downshifted or evaporated, Sheboygan is home to several new large-scale commercial development projects, including:
    — Alliant Energy Corp. plans to construct a $140 million natural gas-fired power plant summer in the Town of Sheboygan Falls. The Madison-based firm hopes the plant will be operational in 2005.
    — Blue Harbor Resort, $54 million resort, conference center and indoor water park on the shore of Lake Michigan in Sheboygan, is expected to open in time for the PGA Championship.
    — Acuity Insurance Co. is half-way finished with its $45 million expanded headquarters along I-43 in Sheboygan. The company hopes construction will be finished in time to showcase its new complex during the golf tournament.
    — Johnsonville Sausage has begun construction on a $34 million plant in the Town of Sheboygan Falls. The 70,000-square-foot cooked sausage plant will employ 120 workers.
    — The Acuity Technology Center is being constructed at the University of Wisconsin-Sheboygan campus. The $6.2 million, 29,000-square-foot information technology building is scheduled to be completed by 2008.

    Feb. 6, 2004 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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