New North Working together drives businesses forward

In the New North, partnership defines the mission. Among the region’s accomplishments are the creation of a region-wide map of businesses serving Defense Department heavyweights Oshkosh Corp. and Marinette Marine, the formation of a partnership between outdoor equipment manufacturer Ariens Co. and a local high school job training program.

All exemplify how businesses, educators, and community leaders work together to improve the region’s economy, said Jerry Murphy, director of the New North, Inc., a regional marketing and economic development organization focused on an 18-county region in northeast Wisconsin.

“We have unique collaborations across peer groups – it’s not just educators working with other educators, but educators working with manufacturers – and we’ve seen fantastic results,” he said.

“We’ve had some really unique leaders here in the New North who were willing to take a risk and explore these collaborations.”

One recent example is a grant secured to help area companies affected by Department of Defense spending cuts. Working together, the East Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, local municipalities, UW-Oshkosh, workforce development boards, the WEDC and the New North received $837,316 from Department of Defense. In addition to funding training programs and a business accelerator in Oshkosh, an extensive directory and map of businesses that are part of the supply chains for Oshkosh Corp. and Marinette Marine will be created.

“We aren’t even sure of how many businesses are involved, so it’s important to take a closer look and see what the capacity is,” said Murphy, adding that the goal is to help those companies diversify and become stronger partners to Oshkosh and Marinette Marine.

The New North already has supply chains and networks focused on the marine industry and energy. Both have seen success in drawing attention to those industries’ presence in northeast Wisconsin, Murphy said.

On a smaller level, Murphy said there are examples of collaborations in communities across the region. He pointed to the Ariens Co., a maker of snowblowers and lawn equipment, who began a program several years ago to expose students at nearby Brillion High School to careers in manufacturing.
In Algoma, the local high school has a machining lab where professionals from local companies provide mentoring and training. Students get on-the-job experience, and in return the lab produces items for companies like Precision Machine Inc. several high school grads have been hired.

“The next big thing everyone is going to face is a shortage of skilled labor (as baby boomers retire), so many businesses and schools are doing their part to try and avoid that,” Murphy said.

Northeast Wisconsin Technical College rolled out a mobile CNC lab a few years ago that travels to area high schools to give students hands-on experience. They can find out more about careers in machining and determine if it’s a field they’re interested in. NWTC received support from local workforce development boards to make the lab a reality. 

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