Gov. Walker’s capital budget supports Brown County STEM Innovation Center

Gov. Scott Walker’s capital budget includes $5 million for constructing a new Brown County STEM Innovation Center in Green Bay, drawing praise from lawmakers and economic development leaders.

It would be built in the 240-acre Brown County Research and Innovation Park next to UW-Green Bay, hosting STEM programming to support manufacturing development in the area. Walker made the announcement on Feb. 17.

“In order to meet the growing demand of manufacturing jobs in our state, we must provide our students with hands-on opportunities to develop the skills and training needed to thrive in a manufacturing job upon graduation,” Walker said. “Upon completion, the center will be a hub for those interested in pursuing a family-supporting career in manufacturing, which further supports the future of Wisconsin’s workforce.”

The $5 million, coupled with private dollars, will fund the construction of the two-story, 55,000-square-foot building, which is expected to cost $15 million in total, according to a release from Rep. John Macco, R-Ledgeview. The center would provide community-based job training and resources pertaining to education, research and entrepreneurship.

It would also house the proposed UW-Green Bay baccalaureate degree in mechanical engineering, engineering technology degree programs, nonprofits like The Einstein Project and the Greater Green Bay STEM network, which work to connect the dots between industry and education for about 60,000 local students.

Green Bay Chamber of Commerce vice president of economic development Peter Zaehringer (pictured here) says the project is helping the region to “win the talent race.”

He says keeping young talent in the area and attracting more are two important ways to spur innovation. He sees the most direct benefit for manufacturers, but wants the center to support the region across the board.

“The biggest key is workforce,” Zaehringer said. “This is a statewide challenge. Our idea is to grow our own talent.”

The Greater Green Bay Gigabit Initiative, which helps tech startups by providing access to high-speed 10-gigabit connection services, would also be housed at the facility.

“I am beyond excited about this development,” said Macco. “I have been in conversations with President Rafn of Northeast Wisconsin Technical College and Chancellor Miller of the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay of how we can supercharge the local economy.”

He says the project will support the continuing development of an “engineering hub” in northeast Wisconsin.

“This is the first step,” Macco said.

State Sen. Frank Lasee, R-De Pere, says the investment is good for the region and the state.

“The Brown County STEM Innovation Center will bring together professors, teachers, researchers and business leaders from all over northeastern Wisconsin with the shared goals of creating a place to foster students’ interests in science and help create and support high-tech careers and businesses,” Lasee said. “The potential for this center is endless.”

“We thank the governor for securing northeast Wisconsin’s future manufacturing base and for helping us to create a feeder for future job growth and economic development,” added Troy Streckenbach, Brown County executive. “I hope the Legislature will support his efforts to create family-supporting jobs in northeast Wisconsin.”

–By Alex Moe