By Jessica Opoien
Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris announced Thursday a proposal to partner with the City of Oshkosh to create an aviation industrial park adjacent to the Wittman Regional Airport.
A similar proposal was rejected with a 22-11 vote by the county board in February because borrowing to purchase the land required a three-fourths majority for approval. The new proposal would designate about $1 million from the county’s reserve fund, and will be submitted as part of the proposed 2013 budget. Because it would come from the reserves, it would only require a majority vote to pass.
Harris said he hopes the majority of the board that voted in favor of the park in the past will view this as an opportunity to do it with a majority vote. Both Harris and Oshkosh City Manager Mark Rohloff discussed the potential purchase at Citizens for a Strong Oshkosh’s “Oshkosh Outlook 2013” presentation.
“This is a way to reduce the amount of investment that’s required from the county, and also brings in the city’s participation as part of that, and it really gives potential manufacturers a lot of proposals,” Harris said. “Not only will they have the airport access, but they’ll have a greenfield, property that hasn’t been industrialized before. They’ll have infrastructure — streets, sewer and water — and that package of things is what manufacturers really want.”
The property would be purchased in two segments, with the county segment adjacent to the airport. The county property would be leased to tenants, enabling them to have access to the airport and its runways. Because the tenants would be on land adjacent to the airport, it would not be a “through the fence” arrangement, so the county could guarantee them runway access without prior approval from the Federal Aviation Administration. Harris said it’s important to be able to tell businesses they’ll have that access if they lease the lot on a long-term basis.
The city’s segment would be on the west side of a road that would be created, and Oshkosh City Manager Mark Rohloff said it would contain a more general industrial park that would favor aviation and aviation support industries. The city’s land would be sold to its tenants. Rohloff said the city’s portion of the purchase would likely amount to about $600,000. The cost difference between the city’s and county’s payments would be proportional to the size of the land purchased.