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Working to diversify and improve the local economy

February 23, 2015 – FOX 11 News, Alex Ronallo

OSHKOSH – Is Oshkosh turning around from a wage loss of up to $100 million a year? The region was hit hard by 2,000 lost jobs at Oshkosh Defense the last two years.

So what are area leaders doing to change the local economy, to offset those losses?

The Oshkosh Defense layoffs were a wakeup call. Area leaders say they realized the local economy needs to change.

“Looking at diversifying the economy, basically getting off the reliance on defense contractors and defense contracts,” explained Eric Fowle the Executive Director of the East Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission

$1.8 million in grants from the department of defense are helping to do that.

But although Oshkosh is the epicenter of the conversation, the work isn’t just going on here. This is a partnership among five counties: Winnebago, Calumet, Outagamie, Waupaca and Fond du Lac.

“People cross boundaries, across county, city borders, because that’s where the jobs are,” explained Mark Rohloff, Oshkosh’s City Manager.

“We actually are working on trying to build a better economic development ecosystem, as we call it and how our partnerships align between the municipalities, between the changes, between counties,” added Naletta Burr a Community Account Manager for Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.

Monday night leaders on this project met to discuss progress so far.

One step they’re taking is to help some of the suppliers to Oshkosh Defense.

“Going back and taking a look at that supply chain to see what areas are there that we can help along should they need it,” said Rohloff.

“To prep them to get away from defense projects and to manufacture other products that might be in need,” added Fowle.

Another step is to use assets like EAA, AirVenture and a new aviation business park to build up the local aerospace industry.

“We’re looking at their airports as a system and what they can offer, what the communities can offer to really grow and expand opportunities in aerospace and aircraft manufacturing,” explained Fowle.

Finally, the leaders told us they’re improving communication among the different cities and counties. They said they’re using Highway 41 as a unifier, to bring more people into the conversation.

“This is always a challenge whenever you’re dealing with all these complex issues with economic development. So I really hope from tonight’s meeting we can just take it as a launch pad,” Rohloff told FOX 11.

Oshkosh and Winnebago County broke ground on the new aviation business park in the fall. Much of the work should be done by the end of the year.


The information above is for general awareness only and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Office of Economic Adjustment or the Department of Defense as a whole.