2015 will see the reaping of benefits from the hard work done by leaders of New North Inc., the regional economic and marketing organization covering 18 counties in northeast and central Wisconsin.
“We worked really hard this past year on a number of initiatives that we’re hoping will see fruition in 2015,” said executive director Jerry Murphy. “We believe it will be a huge year for the New North.”
One initiative already bearing fruit is focused on attracting data centers. The region’s climate – cooler temperatures means it doesn’t cost so much to keep a building full of computers at the right temperature – plus stable geology (no earthquakes) make it a good fit to house data centers. “Every industry – whether it’s health care or IT – needs data centers, and we feel that’s a good niche for us,” Murphy said.
New North leaders are also refining their strategy to focus on recruiting more high-skilled workers to the region. The organization is improving its online employment recruitment web presence so that businesses can use and share with potential employees.
One of the biggest projects for 2015 will be executing a portion of an $837,000 grant from the Department of Defense Office of Economic Adjustment, to map the region’s defense industry supply chain and identify possible markets for companies tied to the defense industry. The grant was awarded after Department of Defense spending cuts led to layoffs at Oshkosh Truck. The grant is designed to help find new opportunities for companies and workers tied to the defense industry. The East Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission is leading the implementation.
Other parts of the grant look to align economic and workforce strategies throughout the region, provide outreach and assistance to former Oshkosh Truck employees and give assistance to businesses affected by the decrease in spending. For example, the grant is being used to help launch an aviation industrial park in Oshkosh.
Murphy said businesses working with Oshkosh Truck are looking to reposition themselves to work in other industries, but that they’re “not giving up on the defense industry.”
“We’re not saying the defense industry isn’t good for our economy – it is – but how can businesses make themselves attractive to other markets? Defense is a strong cluster – we still have many, many companies doing work for both Oshkosh Truck and Marinette Marine,” he said. “We just need to collect data on that supply chain and use it to position ourselves as an attractive option for other industries.”
Businesses, economic groups and educational sectors working together is nothing new in the New North. Collaboration is an essential theme that runs through everything the organization does, said Bob DeKoch, president and chief operating officer of the Boldt Corp. in Appleton and New North co-chair.
“There’s been a huge amount of effort put into this over the past 10 years. People are interested in collaboration, and we are really seeing that pay off in the region,” he said.
For its defense supply chain mapping, the New North is copying what it did for its successful Wisconsin Wind Works initiative. That project, which created an online listing of businesses involved in the energy sector and marketed the area as a go-to place for companies in the industry, was so successful that it spread beyond the borders of the New North. Murphy anticipates the same happening for the defense industry.
DeKoch said the New North continues to market itself heavily outside the region to attract businesses to locate in the area. In addition, the group is launching a new website that will be more interactive and better designed to meet users’ needs.
“Jerry is meeting with site selectors and working with them on what they’re looking for when it comes to their businesses,” he said. “We’ve had some successes, such as Prolamina locating its new facility in Neenah, and want to build on those.”
New North Inc.
600 N. Adams St., Green Bay, WI
■ Fond du Lac
■ Green Lake
The New North is a regional marketing and economic development organization for 18 counties in northeast Wisconsin including the MSAs of Appleton, Fond du Lac, Green Bay, Oshkosh-Neenah and Sheboygan
Acuity, Associated Bank, Bemis Manufacturing, Georgia-Pacific Corp., Green Bay Packaging, Kimberly-Clark Corp., Kohler Co., Manitowoc Co., Marinette Marine Corp., Menasha Corp., Mercury Marine Corp., Oshkosh Corp., Plexus Corp., Sargento Foods Inc., Schneider National, Schreiber Foods, ThedaCare, U.S. Venture, Waupaca Foundry.
Population: 1.23 million
Austin Straubel International Airport (Green Bay), Outagamie County Regional Airport (Appleton)
Port of Green Bay, Port of Sturgeon Bay
College and Universities:
Bellin College, College of Menominee Nation, Fox Valley Technical College, Lakeland College, Lakeshore Technical College, Lawrence University, Marian University, Moraine Park Technical College, Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, Ripon College, Silver Lake College, St. Norbert College, UW-Fond du Lac, UW-Fox Valley, UW-Green Bay, UW-Manitowoc, UW-Marinette, UW-Oshkosh, UW-Sheboygan
Paper, paper converting; machinery; plastics, tourism and hospitality; defense; marine; agriculture and food production; power and energy; electronics/circuitry; trucking/logistics; insurance; health care.