Antigo, county have had quite a year, cite business|
|Artisan Cheese, industrial gears and agricultural mesh bags combined for quite a year in the Antigo area.|
A poll of the Antigo Daily Journal editorial staff found plenty of options for the top stories of the year, but the easy pick for number one was the resurgence of the area’s manufacturers, with major projects either in the works or completed at three of Antigo’s most viable industries.
The Sartori announcement came on Dec. 11, when the Plymouth-based firm said that it would be investing $14 million in facilities improvements, with a good share of the work coming in Antigo.
Sartori produces internationally acclaimed parmesan, Romano and other types of hard Italian cheese at the Antigo plant, which was founded by J.L. Kraft in the 1920s.
Within days, heavy equipment was removing two homes located adjacent to the Morse Street plant, making room for an expansion that will include new equipment, improved ergonomics and expanded capacity and capabilities.
“This is great for the city of Antigo,” Mayor Bill Brandt said. “We have been working for months on this project and are excited.”
A ground-breaking will be held in Antigo in May.
In July, Volm Companies, with a commitment to Antigo dating back decades, clipped a ceremonial ribbon at a major expansion of its Fresh Tech Products facility, which dominates the skyline in the northside industrial park.
The 36,880 square foot addition to the Fresh Tech Products plant located at 2611 Clermont St. is the new home for a state-of-the-art blown-film extrusion line.
“This additional capacity will give us a more competitive edge in the industry,” Michael Hunter, vice-president of manufacturing and corporate operations, said. “We will be able to pull business away from competing markets overseas, and bring it back to Wisconsin.”
Construction began in September, 2012 and, with a height of 64 feet, the looming structure is easily the tallest industrial plant in the city.
Volm Companies currently staffs 220 full time employees in its Antigo locations.
The project, plus Volm’s innovative employee wellness program, brought Gov. Scott Walker and his wife, Tonette, to town for a visit months later.
Also in December, Merit Gear announced that it has been purchased by Milwaukee-based Rexnord Corp., part of a deal that included a sister plant in Ohio.
Located on Hudson Street, Merit Gear manufactures high-quality gearing and specialized gearboxes, which mainly serve the North American oil and gas industry. They are also used for industrial applications.
According to Tom Rouse, Merit’s chief executive officer, the purchase will be beneficial for the Antigo facility and its employees.
“This is a good move and will add to our growth in the future,” he said. “We have a strong position in the market and this will only add to that.”
Rexnord, which makes process and motion control and water management products, has about 7,300 employees globally.
Second on the list was the completion of construction at Langlade Hospital, whose campus has been an almost constant work zone since ground-breaking on the new hospital in November, 2010.
The brunt of the construction filled 2011 and 2012, but the year past saw the completion of work on the Center for Health and Performance, a stunning facility that offers health and fitness options in a medically-supervised setting; and renovations to the Aspirus General Clinic and a new cardiovascular suite of offices.
With those changes, the hospital announced in fall that it was becoming a satellite for Aspirus Heart & Vascular Institute, guaranteeing an exceptional level of diagnosis and treatment to the region’s aging population.
Rounding out the year were improvements in the retail environment, led by cosmetic and infrastructure improvements to Lakeside Market downtown and the Parsons of Antigo automobile dealership on the north side.
Both projects illustrated a deep commitment to the local economy by long-standing family-operated businesses.
Certainly retailing challenges remain, certainly in the community’s core, but there are signs of resilience there as well, with Michaels Restaurant joining the list of downtown businesses anchored by the Dixie Lunch, renovations to the Antigo Professional Building, and niche retailers including the resilient Blue Awning, one-of-a-kind Zane Guitars, and Neve’s Flooring.
The arts scene is also seeing some new life. The Antigo Visual Arts Gallery is bringing more and more visitors to the Langlade County Historical Society Museum, which itself was the focus of several renovation projects. And work is continuing on the development of a downtown performing arts center, with the annual “Snow Ball” fund-raising gala just 19 days away.
NEW OWNERS—Massive gears march down the production line at Merit Gear Corporation, a durable Antigo manufacturer that was sold this fall to Rexnord Corporation, based in Milwaukee. The move suggests good things ahead for the gear-maker, with Rexnord committed to continue the recent level of growth and improvements at the plant. The sale of one of a series of events on the industrial front that sparked 2013 across the region.
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