Port Edwards Economic Development and Repositioning Strategy
When the Village of Port Edwards’ largest employer closed its doors in 2008, the community suffered a major economic blow – losing 500 jobs and jeopardizing a quarter of its taxbase. The Village hired Vandewalle & Associates to create a new economic strategy to create jobs and rebuild the local economy, including developing ideas to reuse the Domtar Paper Mill.
The V&A team examined community and area assets and opportunities from the lens of a changing new economy. Starting with a deep understanding of the unique industrial properties in the Village, the regional workforce strengths, and existing supply chains (including the paper mill’s intact bioprocessing capacities), Vandewalle created a bold strategy for the Village that is now moving forward. This work has included:
- Working with the Village to secure grant funding from two state agencies and a local foundation, which provided seed capital needed to launch this economic development strategy
- Identifying multiple potential opportunities to reuse the mill’s assets and equipment to generate energy and/or new products, and developing contacts with researchers and companies on the cutting edge of these technologies
- Working with the Village to facilitate a dialogue between a large global chemical company that owns a local plant and a global fuel cell manufacturer to analyze an opportunity to use byproduct hydrogen for power generation
- Creating a new Industrial Tax Increment Financing District that is performing well and generating a vital income stream to support economic development efforts
- Facilitating public/private partnerships and structuring deals to foster over $20 million in new infrastructure and private development planned for construction in 2012
Developing the Central Wisconsin Applied Research and Business Park. In 2013 the former Domtar paper mill site was
purchased by DMI Acquisitions of Columbus, OH with the aim of bringing new economic activity to the site and benefitting the community. Vandewalle & Associates continued working with DMI to develop the reuse and redevelopment strategy, web site and marketing materials for the Park, and continues assisting with tenant recruitment and other implementation activities. The new Central Wisconsin Applied Research Business Park is positioned as a leading-edge industrial park accessible to a diverse mix of raw materials, key infrastructure, highly-skilled workforce, and existing facilities well suited to new and productive uses including:
- Biomass processing
- Ag-based product development
- Food production
- Renewable energy
- Warehousing and logistics
Creating the Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Cellulosic Operations, Research and Commercialization (WISCORC) Center. This facility aims to bring together industry reps, academics, and entrepreneurs in a collaborative environment. As the primary anchor to the Park, WISCORC will support industries in developing and adapting new bio-based technologies and products, accelerate the development of new, renewably-sourced products, and provide much-needed open and secure experimental and research spaces for existing businesses. Vandewalle & Associates helped to develop the business plan and funding strategy, and continues to help forge partnerships with potential Center collaborators.