Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Wisconsin Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch joined regional Chambers of Commerce, cconomic development corporations and other agencies and enterprises interested in economic growth in Northeast Wisconsin at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s “University + Community” workshop Monday, Aug. 26.
The workshop gave attendees a deeper understanding of the trends and concerns for economic development in the New North and Wisconsin and showcased how businesses can leverage the resources of UW Oshkosh to encourage business development and economic growth in their regions.
Governor Walker kicked off the day with a morning address focusing on national measures that are indicating Wisconsin’s continued economic recovery.
The Governor also applauded UW Oshkosh’s, other UW System institutions’, UW colleges’ and UW Extension’s efforts to further support state businesses’ growth and prosperity. They include development of the UW Flexible Option, a degree program that, in late fall, will allow students to start and complete courses on their timetable, choose a learning schedule that meshes with their life and career and allows students to move forward at their own pace, measuring competency “in a subject area, not seat time in a classroom.”
“We’re committed to working with the University of Wisconsin, you at the Oshkosh campus, system-wide, our technical colleges as well because they are an integral part of that link…,” Governor Walker said, addressing an audience of more than 100 University and New North business representatives gathered in Sage Hall.
The workshop, set in UW Oshkosh’s Sage Hall and Reeve Memorial Union, featured Patrick H. McGaughey, CPF, America’s Chamber Mentor, “an international business speaker with a background of professional success in broadcasting and business association management.”
McGaughey led workshops focused on why an educated community is critical to economic development and how those interested in economic development in the New North can prepare their local businesses for working with educational partners.
UW Oshkosh Chancellor Richard Wells followed Governor Walker’s morning address by highlighting some of the many ways the institution has been directly involved in workforce, business and economic development in the Oshkosh area and the New North region.
“We’re often not thought of that way, but as comprehensive regional universities, we’ve been doing this for a long time,” Wells said. “Part of our effort here is to make sure we do it well, that we do it better, that we do more of it, that we do it in a collaborative way, that we align more with the business community – the for-profit and not-for-profit community – and the other workforce development professionals around the state.”
The Aug. 26 day-long program concluded with tours of downtown Oshkosh’s revitalized Best Western Premier Waterfront Hotel and the UW Oshkosh campus Biodigester – first of its kind in the western hemisphere.
The hotel is co-owned by the UW Oshkosh Foundation, which plans to use some revenues from the enterprise to fuel UW Oshkosh scholarships for Oshkosh-area high school students planning on attending the University. Beyond serving as a construction, retail and hospitality job generator for Oshkosh, the project is also a partnership that is already supporting enhanced and expanded convention and academic conference business at the hotel-attached Oshkosh Convention Center and the nearby UW Oshkosh campus.
The University’s campus biodigester is capable of producing up to 10 percent of UW Oshkosh’s heat and electricity needs. In airless, indoor storage chambers, the facility – located adjacent to UW Oshkosh Campus Services off Witzel Avenue – captures methane generated by the decomposition of campus food waste, city grass clippings and some sourced agricultural plant waste. The methane is then combusted to produce energy.
UW Oshkosh has also collaborated in biodigester initiatives at Rosendale Dairy, the state’s largest dairy farm, and Allen Farms, a smaller, family-owned dairy farm. Both sites have integrated, or are integrating, wet biodigester technology that will generate energy from livestock waste. As with the campus facility, the off-campus sites will also serve as high-impact, learning laboratories for UW Oshkosh environmental studies and microbiology students.