January 13 – 19
As has been reported over the past few months, the proposed world-class golf development by Mike Keiser south of Wisconsin Rapids in the Town of Rome is becoming a reality. Mike closed on the property in late December. One might wonder how this development 18 miles south may impact the Wisconsin Rapids economy. Let’s start by considering how the developer, potential investors and management company access our area. Mike has been in and out of Alexander Field a number of times and so have the likes of potential investors such as familiar names Barry Alvarez and others. Often times, we overlook the significance of our municipally owned, general aviation airport. In this case, it provides convenient access to our region via private air service. Those who have flown commercial in recent years know how challenging and frustrating it can be. It is no surprise that future visits by investors or players will continue to realize the asset we have in our airport.
Beyond ease-of-access via air, how else might the development support our local economy? Last Thursday I visited with Town of Rome representatives to learn more about the project. The project doesn’t initially call for any accommodations, therefore we conclude that visitors to the region will stay in the hotels in our city, eat in our restaurants and buy products while here. This is good news given new ownership at the full-service Hotel Mead and the many other lodging options. Entrepreneurial opportunities abound – from private shuttle service to other supply chain needs. Further, they intend to utilize local contractors as much as possible.
During my visit, Town representatives graciously showed me around the property. Let me say, I was surprised how unique the land is. While snow covered, it is easy to say this course will be one of a kind. I commend Mike Kaiser for his approach to restore the land to its natural state. Further, I thank Mike for recognizing an opportunity in the gem we have in our region.
While in the depth of winter, it might seem difficult to imagine playing a round of golf, but come spring 2016 the chance to play the newest course in our region will be a reality. I know I am looking forward to playing a round.
Ruan Transport announces plans to close Rapids terminal
In unwelcome news, last week, Ruan Transport made public their plans to close their Rapids terminal on or about March 21. This news not only negatively affects those employed but also the customers Ruan serves.
With their departure, as with most situations, there is an opportunity. From the moment I knew about their plans, I began conversations with Ruan’s largest customers. They detailed how this will impact their business operations in the Rapids area. Immediately, we began researching potential prospects to fill this void. After speaking with a number of companies, we have scheduled formal discussions with at least one of the companies who is interested in the opportunity here.
It is in these situations where City leadership can and should act as a facilitator. I am pleased our local Chamber, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. and customers have joined together with the intention of filling this void.
I am optimistic they will recognize potential here and consider setting up operations to ensure a smooth transition for all those involved.
Former Humane Society building use
Following inquiries about potential uses for the former Humane Society building, I visited the facility to see, firsthand, what condition the building is in. While it has strong reminders of the previous use and questions remain as to how to fully remove them, the building is structurally sound. It lacks efficient heating and cooling systems and needs updating. However, I have asked staff for their opinions on the structure. I feel a conversation could be had at a future City Council meeting following a summary of staff opinions. What do you think?
2014 State of the City Address
I invite you to learn more about these initiatives at my second State of the City Address.
The State of the City Address will be held Wednesday, Jan. 29, at McMillan Memorial Library’s Fine Arts Center. The League of Women Voters of the Wisconsin Rapids Area will host a reception at 6:30 p.m. New this year, we will bring City Hall to you – department representatives will be setup to answer questions and provide information on their department. Ever have a question you haven’t been able to get answered? Now is the chance. You will be able to meet me, City Department Heads and Alderpersons. My remarks will begin at 7 p.m. Following the address, there will be a question and answer period.
I hope you choose to be part of this event. Because seating is limited, RSVP is highly encouraged. Do so by visiting wirapids.org or by calling 715-421-8216. The State of the City Address will also be streamed live by River Cities Community Access, and can be viewed on Solarus Channel 3, Charter channel 96/985 and via RCCA’s website at www.wrpeg.org.
Director of Innovation and Technology
Finally, I introduced my vision and thoughts on the proposed Director of Innovation and Technology to the Human Resources committee. Thankfully, they passed the position and it will be moved for consideration at the full council meeting on Jan. 21. In my next Community Update, I will explain this more.