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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Tests Start On Maritime Excellence Center Site

It appears that in a year or so, “Memories”, the former Reinke’s Restaurant in Marinette, may be just that, a memory. In its place, if all goes well, there will be a multi-million dollar facility to be known as the Maritime Center For Excellence, an incubator mainly focused on businesses and industries related to the Maritime industry, but space will be available to other businesses as well. Part of the facility will be offices for Naval personnel working with Marinette Marine on ships being built for the United States Navy.

The Maritime Center For Excellence is not connected with the NWTC training facility which also is located in that area. Both are very near the Marinette Marine ship building facility.

The Wisconsin State budget, drafted by Gov. Scott Walker and approved by both houses of the state legislature, allocated up to $5 million for the project, which also requires some in-kind local matches.

Whether or not the project will go forward to reality depends on Wisconsin Department of Administration approval of applications for funding that will be submitted in early December.

Efforts to build the Maritime Center For Excellence are being spearheaded by Marinette County Association for Business and Industry, Inc., (MCABI), the non-profit organization charged with helping promote economic growth for Marinette County. Once completed, if all goes well, the facility will be operated by MCABI.

Ann Hartnell, MCABI executive director, reported to Marinette County Board’s Economic Development and Tourism Committee on Tuesday, Nov. 19 that options have been obtained for purchase of the properties along the north side of Main Street between Ely and Stanton streets as the site for the facility. Test borings and other environmental studies will begin next week.

Hartnell said Marinette Marine is very generously donating time and resources to help helping with planning and oversight of construction as an in-kind gesture to help Marinette and MCABI move this project forward.

She stressed that advance of the project from this point is dependent on DOA approval of development plans and release of funds. “We have to show them we have a plan together,” she said. While she is “99.9 percent sure” that the money will be made available, nothing is certain until approval is actually in place. She hopes to release more information in mid December.

Impetus for the state allocation of money for the maritime Center began when MCABI and Marinette Marine requested state and local assistance in order to enhance their ability to compete with other shipbuilding companies, specifically a builder in Alabama who has received far greater amounts of public assistance and competes against Marinette Marine for contracts to build the U.S. Navy Littoral Combat Ships.

In addition to the proposed state funding, a local match of $6.6 million will help to fund the project which includes land acquisition, site preparation, infrastructure development and the construction of a 24,000 square foot facility intended to house US Navy personnel and an entrepreneurship center.

The Economic Development Committee also heard from Supervisor Nick Lakari, a committee member, on development plans for Twin County Airport. Lakari and Supervisor Ted Sauve represent Marinette County on the Twin county Airport Commission.

Lakari said Enstrom Helicopter needs to use more of the neighboring airport property for their building expansion. The Commission needs to get the okay from Michigan Department of Transportation and others before they can approve the request. Lakari expects action at the December commission meeting. Enstrom needs an answer by Dec. 31, Lakari said.

Lakari reported that as a result of an ongoing study of potential uses of the airport, several potential partners visited on November 4, 5 and 6 to view the airport facilities and spend time with the planning group. A first group of potential partners had made a similar visit in August.

Among those interested are owners of a flight training academy, an aircraft maintenance business headquartered in Pennsylvania, and the operator of a rotary flight training center, who also met with Enstrom people during the visit. So far two colleges have also visited and expressed interest, and now it appears they may come forward with a joint effort that includes a third training party, Lakari said.

Jacqueline Ruleau, executive director of Marinette Menominee Area Chamber of Commerce, reported her office now finally has voice mail. Plans are in place for the annual Holiday Charity Ball on Friday, Dec. 6, which helps finance the Marinette Menominee Free Clinic.

The Chamber is moving forward with the anti-opiate task force, and the are looking for the right fiscal agent to handle that detail.

Ruleau was impressed that John Gard announced publicly at a recent conference that the group of private investors he represents will be starting work on the Green Island project in 2014. Development of the luxury resort project to be known as “Annie’s Vineyard” had been held up because of delays, mainly caused by those opposed on the basis of environmental concerns, but also likely due to the economic downturn that came just as the project appeared to be getting underway.

Ruleau was impressed that private, not public, dollars are intended to finance the entire project.

Supervisor Al Mans commented that delays in permits are particularly troublesome, “because private dollars won’t wait. If there is too much political opposition, they just go away.”

When some of those present expressed doubt about the project becoming a reality, Supervisor Ken Casper, who chairs the committee, declared, “John Gard is a good man. If he says most of the hoops have been jumped through, I believe something will be happening.”

The committee voted unanimously in favor of a resolution supporting state broadband expansion grants as allowed in the recent biennial Wisconsin state budget, and declaring the need for expansion of broadband services for businesses and citizens in the areas of economic development, medical care, education, communication, entertainment and other future uses. The resolution states that significant portions of the county are below average in speed, adoption and capacity of internet communication compared to the rest of Wisconsin, America and the rest of the world.

Hartnell reported the Economic Development Conference for local leaders held Wednesday, Oct. 30 at Wausaukee High School was well attended and well received, and there were complimentary comments from those present who had attended.

She said a company in the northern part of the county is looking to expand, and the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development is working with “Fast Forward” grants that employers can use to train their work force.


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