Oshkosh city leaders look forward to EAA AirVenture every year as thousands of aviation lovers from around the world descend on Wittman Regional Airport for a week, bringing a big economic boost to the area.
Business leaders are hoping to capitalize on that love economically all year round.
Oshkosh and Winnebago County leaders have been working to create a business park near the airport grounds for the past ten years. The goal is to bring more aviation companies to the area — adding as many as 500 jobs and bringing as much as $73 million to the area at the same time.
“We believe that that industry can find a really solid fit here and we can capture that enthusiasm by bringing in businesses,” Jason White, CEO of Greater Oshkosh Economic Development Corporation, said.
The future business park is an 80-acre property adjacent to the airport. Half belongs to the county, the other half to the city.
They’re planning to lease all of it to businesses that want to expand in the area.
“Those companies that repair engines and airplane parts and paint type companies, all of those we believe have a very nice fit with our aviation park,” White said.
But it’s more than just economic development for the city. It’s also an opportunity diversify what’s become a city dependent on a few large employers.
“It diversifies our industry, so that when bumps happen in industries such as the defense industry it doesn’t have the dip that we saw a few years ago,” said Audra Hoy, Director of Business and Economic Development.
“We realize we don’t want to put all of our eggs in one basket when it comes to economic development. We’re very well known around the world for manufacturing. We have some very significant and large manufacturers in our community, and should there be a downturn for whatever reason, we want to make sure we have another industry that we can build up,” White added.
So far, no businesses have signed on. Officials tell us utilities are in and most of the infrastructure is set — and ready for business.