— The head of Stoughton Trailers says a new corporate headquarters and community park project will attract more workers to the local community.
In a recent interview, President and CEO Bob Wahlin said the company aims to be “more of a destination employer” in the years to come. He said the project will help to “separate us from some of the employment competition, and really try to set us up to bring in the best people in our industry to Stoughton.”
Stoughton Trailers is a family-owned business that makes semitrailers, chassis and other transportation equipment. As one of the largest private manufacturers in Wisconsin, the company has eight production sites across multiple states totaling about 2 million square feet of space. Along with facilities in Stoughton, Evansville and Brodhead, Stoughton Trailers has also recently established operations in Texas and Mississippi.
The company has seen significant growth over the past decade, Wahlin explained, and employs more than 1,800 people. Its current home office building has been in use since 1961, when the company began operations in Stoughton.
Stoughton Trailers today is rolling out its plans for a new headquarters building to be located on a nearby 182-acre plot. The plans also include space for commercial and residential developments, athletic spaces, an amphitheater, a pond, trails for walking and biking and plenty of green space.
“Beyond the office building, I’m hoping again the community park can be something that distinguishes Stoughton from some of the other communities,” Wahlin told WisBusiness.com. “We know it’s not going to be a silver bullet, but it can be a great part of Stoughton, and one of the many positive things that’ll bring people to this community.”
He said Stoughton Trailers has begun initial outreach to get other businesses involved in the project, noting he expects many local companies would love to give back to the community in this way. But first, the city is conducting a needs analysis to better understand how the park should look.
Daniele Thompson, an attorney with St. Marie Law LLC in Stoughton, is the project manager. She said the city has retained an outside consultant to engage with stakeholders including sports coaches, schools and others in the community. The analysis is also looking at traffic and visitor spending patterns. Results of that study will be released in March, Thompson said.
“One of the things that we will be going to the community for will be opening a new tax incremental district,” she said. “So what we’ll look for is buy-in from the community on a [tax incremental financing] perspective.”
Tax incremental financing is a strategy commonly used by municipal governments to encourage private development, according to an overview from the Wisconsin Policy Forum. Under this financing tool, public funds can help pay for project costs within a designated area. WPF says municipalities often borrow money for this purpose and pay it back with the increased property tax revenues from the new development.
Wahlin said the company is “pushing hard” to be able to move into the new headquarters by the end of 2024, but added a lot of work needs to be done to make that a reality.
“We understand that’s an aggressive goal, but that’s our goal nonetheless,” he said.
— While efforts on the headquarters and park project continue, Stoughton Trailers is also working to upgrade its manufacturing operations with more automation.
About 10 years ago, the company set out a strategic growth plan that Wahlin describes as a “grow or die philosophy.” Since that time, he says Stoughton Trailers has worked to standardize its products and alter designs to target fleet customers, while introducing new product lines such as a refrigerated trailer and more.
As part of an effort to surmount workforce challenges, “we knew we had to significantly automate,” Wahlin said. One of the company’s facilities in Stoughton features several iterations of production machinery, including a fully automated system that was installed just over a year ago. Wahlin said that part of the factory will be expanded over time.
Looking ahead, Wahlin said the company wants to leverage growth opportunities in the United States, Canada and Mexico while pursuing other international partnerships.
“I think Stoughton Trailers is going to continue to have a greater global presence,” he said. “Our goals are definitely to continue to expand … we’ve had some great wind at our backs the last several years. It’s not always going to be that way, but we’re trying to do things now to make us stronger in those tougher times.”
Still, Wahlin emphasized that the company is committed to Stoughton for the long haul. Through wages, taxes and donations, he says Stoughton Trailers has had a $100 million impact on the community just in the past year. He also touted the work of the Wahlin Foundation, which was established to support the communities surrounding the company’s manufacturing operations.
“We’re very much interested in seeing Stoughton develop for the long term … We live here, our kids go to school here, we’re very tied to the community,” he said. “We hope this can be a very positive catalyst to make Stoughton an even better place to live.”
See the company’s development plans here: https://www.wisbusiness.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/Stoughton_Masterplan_Vision-Board.pdf
See a photo of Stoughton Trailers’ automated systems: https://www.wisbusiness.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/Fab-Center-Drone-August-2021-C-scaled.jpg
— Milwaukee officials are expressing optimism about Gov. Tony Evers’ plan to call for dedicating 20 percent of future state sales tax collections to boost shared revenue by more than $576 million while also allowing local governments to levy a higher sales tax of their own.
Meanwhile, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, vowed GOP lawmakers will require local governments to combine services and pursue cost-savings measures before providing a significant boost in state aid.
As part of yesterday’s announcement, Evers said he will include in the budget a provision Milwaukee officials have called for to allow the county to levy an additional 1 percent sales tax on top of the 0.5 percent imposed now. The new revenue would be split equally between the county and the city.
Meanwhile, other counties would be allowed to double their local sales tax to 1 percent. Besides Milwaukee, about 25 cities with populations of more than 30,000 would be able to impose a new 0.5 percent sales tax.
In both cases, voters would have to approve the higher sales taxes through referendum. Evers introduces his budget plan on Feb. 15. Then the GOP-controlled Legislature will revise it before sending it back to Evers for final review.
See more at WisPolitics.com: https://www.wispolitics.com/2023/tue-pm-update-milwaukee-leaders-optimistic-over-evers-sales-tax-proposal-vos-wants-reforms-before-more-state-aid
— The Joint Legislative Audit Committee has approved 6-4 along party lines an audit of the Department of Safety and Professional Services, rejecting a call from Dem members for a plan to ensure the probe won’t create more licensing delays.
Republicans have criticized the agency and its former secretary Dawn Crim, who resigned in July, for professional licensing application backlogs. Former Assistant Deputy Secretary Dan Hereth has since taken over as secretary.
Committee Co-chair Rep. Robert Wittke at a Capitol press conference yesterday said the audit is necessary to address licensing delays.
“We have way too many people waiting way too long for licenses. We need to understand what the issues are and get this resolved,” the Racine Republican said. “We can’t have people that are looking for licenses to become social workers to have to work maybe two or three months before they’re approved.”
Co-chair Sen. Eric Wimberger, R-Green Bay, said working with the state auditor will enable deeper investigation into the issue compared to the work done by the Legislative Study Committee on Occupational Licenses and will provide a clear roadmap for improvements.
Dems warned the audit itself could cause more delays. Sens. Dianne Hesselbein, of Middleton, Tim Carpenter, of Milwaukee, and Reps. Ryan Clancy, of Milwaukee, and Francesca Hong, of Madison, ahead of yesterday’s meeting in a letter to committee co-chairs argued the agency is already understaffed and lacking resources, a problem that could be exacerbated by the audit. They said DSPS had made efforts to modernize the licensing process, “without any meaningful support or assistance from this Legislature.”
Carpenter ahead of yesterday’s vote said he hoped the state would do more to fund the agency to allow for more staff, noting the state’s surplus estimated to exceed $7 billion.
“We could have taken care of the problem ourselves,” Carpenter said.
DSPS offers licensing for more than 240 different license types. The agency expects to have all of those license types available on its online licensing portal, LicensE, by the end of this year. The portal allows people to apply for licenses and track their application status.
Dems had called for GOP committee members to provide a plan to make sure the audit doesn’t jeopardize the agency’s modernization efforts, as well as worsen wait times.
DSPS Assistant Deputy Secretary Jennifer Garrett told WisPolitics.com the agency is issuing more licenses and faster than before — more than 250,000 licenses per year on average. Garrett did not respond to questions about how many people are currently awaiting licenses and the wait time.
“We want what our customers want: to issue licenses to qualified candidates as easily and efficiently as possible so that they can begin their careers, support their families, and build their lives here in Wisconsin,” Garrett said. “We will continue to use every resource at our disposal to that end, and we will continue to advocate to use more of the revenue we collect in fees to further support and improve this work.”
See Dems’ letter:
<br><b><i>Top headlines from the Health Care Report … </b></i>
— The Department of Health Services is warning of an increase in the number of toxic shock syndrome cases seen recently in Wisconsin.
And a bipartisan group of lawmakers are renewing a push to require insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers to count coupons and other savings measures toward patient deductibles and maximum out-of-pocket expenses.
<i>For more of the most relevant news on COVID-19, reports on groundbreaking health research in Wisconsin, links to top stories and more, sign up today for the free daily Health Care Report from WisPolitics.com and WisBusiness.com.</i>
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# Wisconsin Republicans order audit of licensing backlog
# Milwaukee Council passes 6-month pause on ‘proliferation’ of new vape shops
# Milwaukee entrepreneurs launching gamified meditation app targeting Gen Z
– Massive LED screen planned for The Couture’s transit center
– Wisconsin FFA Alumni and Supporters convention held
– Baldwin leads group urging USDA to address avian flu outbreak
– AGC urges contractors to weigh in on EPA decision over PVC scrap waste
– Contractors to host Racine luncheon to inform diverse pool of workers
– Evers plan would give local governments $576 million boost
– Free speech at college campuses: What should it look like and who decides?
– Suspensions rise, disparities remain in MMSD’s first semester
– Green Bay Schools passed a $92.6M referendum. Here’s what it has spent money on so far.
# FOOD AND BEVERAGE
– Cubanitas owner develops Milwaukee event space The Clybourn
– New three-level Japanese restaurant now open in downtown Milwaukee
# HEALTH CARE
– Wisconsin sees multiple reported toxic shock syndrome cases for first time in 12 years
– Roads blocked in land spat involving American Indian tribe
– Hundreds more Milwaukee Tool employees moving downtown as interior nears completion
# REAL ESTATE
– Texas firm buys former Sears, auto center buildings at Southridge
– Evers to propose local sales tax hikes to fund government
– Evers unveils plan to fund local governments with sales tax
– Why Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo is scheduled to ring the NYSE closing bell next month
– Milwaukee startup CodeBaby integrates Chat GPT with its AI avatars
– Tourism ‘exceeded expectations’ along I-41 corridor. Here’s what’s next
– Chippewa Falls residents react to new museum
# PRESS RELEASES
<i>See these and other press releases:
Better Business Bureau: Decluttering? Tips for selling your used items online
Dept. of Natural Resources: Prepare for wet weather with flood insurance