Thursday, September 04, 2014

Oshkosh makes more room for aviation businesses

OSHKOSH – Oshkosh’s Aviation Business Park is taking flight. 

 The city of Oshkosh and Winnebago County held a groundbreaking Thursday for the $4.5 million project.

The 82 acre park is meant to create and expand businesses and provide jobs related to aviation.

Elizabeth Harman, CEO of Chamco, said, “it can take a long time to develop and fill a park of this nature. But we believe with the great assets we have in this community including the presence of EAA and the great facility here at Wittman Regional Airport, that we have a lot of great assets that will be attractive to businesses in aviation and aerospace.”

They are hoping the infrastructure for the park will be done by the end of 2015.

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Feds give Oshkosh region another $1m for job development

The Department of Defense has awarded the Oshkosh region an additional $1 million to expand efforts to diversify the local economy in the wake of steep Oshkosh Corp. layoffs.

The award will allow the East Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission to expand the scope of an industry diversification study and other planning efforts underway since last fall. A year ago, the DOD awarded the region $837,000 to map the defense industry's supply chain, invest in aviation and aerospace industry marketing and development projects, and to help affected suppliers find new streams of business.

The city of Oshkosh, Winnebago County and their state and regional development partners took a concrete step forward on diversification efforts Thursday when they officially broke ground on an 82-acre aviation business park under development at the southeast end of Wittman Regional Airport.

Oshkosh Community Development Director Allen Davis said some of the new grant money will help support development of the airport business park, a business accelerator under development by the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and the aviation business park's marketing study.

"On the aviation/aerospace side, we've added both Outagamie and Fond du Lac county airports to the marketing analysis to determine what segments of the industry each airport can work to attract independently and what we can work to attract together," Davis said. "This is something DOD stresses: Their history tells them a regional approach is best in dealing with these sorts of projects. They came with the mindset that this needed to be a regional response."

He said the additional funding will also allow the city hire a firm to develop covenants and manuals for the aviation business park.

"It should make it easier for prospects to develop in the business park," he said. "The aviation industry has its own set of requirements that we want to make sure we accommodate in the new park."

The Oshkosh area popped up on the Department of Defense's radar last year after Oshkosh Corp. laid off more than 1,200 workers, or more than 1 percent of the city's work force, in less than a year. The company said the cuts were necessary as a result of the wind down of major production contracts for military vehicles.

Davis said he doesn't take the supplemental grant as a warning that further layoffs could come to Oshkosh Corp. soon.

"I don't see the grant as a sign of a weak defense industry, I see it as the Department of Defense liking these projects and feeling they will benefit laid off Oshkosh Corp. workers directly," he said.

Oshkosh Corp. spokesman John Daggett said the company does not plan to lay off additional workers.

"At this point in time, we've adjusted our workforce, but we are a market-driven company. Our employment will be dictated by the markets and by the federal government spending," Daggett said.

The supplemental grant will also help the regional planning commission undertake steps to create a more collaboration among regional economic development entities and help defense industry supply chain companies re-engage other industry sectors to soften the blow of declining defense business, according to a commission press release.

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