Oshkosh wants a WOW.
That’s the message that the Greater Oshkosh Economic Development Corp. has delivered to City Hall in a letter describing the factors that are driving Oshkosh Corp. in its site selection process for a new headquarters.
The letter specifies four issues for the company:
- LOCATION. Oshkosh wants a “WOW” location that would have high visibility, easy highway access and the capability to support a “state of the art campus with all the newest amenities and technology.”
- URGENCY. The company is currently doing well financially, but it is now operating out of nearly 40 buildings across the area. “The company is out of space, the buildings do not reflect their ‘people first’ culture and [current sites]do not represent an efficient or effective way to work,” the letter states.
- WORKFORCE. The company, which has operations in five states and multiple overseas locations, is concerned about attracting and retaining talent to a small community like Oshkosh. Metro areas like Chicago, Milwaukee and Minneapolis offer larger talent pools, according to the letter. “Caterpillar is one such example of a company that relocated to a larger talent base,” a reference to the decision earlier this year to move the equipment manufacturer’s headquarters from Peoria, Illinois, to suburban Chicago.
- WELCOME. “The company wants a positive situation for the company and community in relation to their selected location and for this to be a mutually supportive partnership,” the letter says. Another aspect of welcoming is tied to workforce recruitment. “The community needs to be welcoming to a diverse talent group from all over the world, needs to support the company’s mission and purpose, and be the type of community where employees are encouraged to be involved and make an impact.”
As the company has been looking for a new location for its executive offices, officials–and citizens–have expressed frustration about the company’s silence on what it wants and what it is trying to accomplish. This letter appears to be an attempt to address that knowledge gap.
City staff has proposed that the company take over a portion of the Lakeshore Municipal Golf Course, but some citizens–including golfers, corporate critics, outdoors enthusiasts and proponents of the city’s history and traditions–have opposed the idea, arguing that there must be other alternatives for Oshkosh to use instead.
In an Oct. 2 letter to City Manager Mark Rohloff, Jason White, the CEO of GO-EDC provided a detailed explanation of the company’s evaluation process and stressed that Lakeshore is the only option that will keep the Oshkosh headquarters in town.
White said his organization had identified 20 properties to Oshkosh during this process. “We invested a great amount of time on downtown related sites as we were learning more about the company’s criteria for a new corporate office location, but those sites do not sufficiently meet all the company’s established criteria,” White said. “Lakeshore is the ONLY Oshkosh site to meet all of Oshkosh Corp.’s established criteria for identifying and securing a new headquarters facility.”
The letter was sent as the city is preparing for two days of hearings and public input sessions on the issue.
Oshkosh did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
The common theme through all of the company’s criteria appears to be a concern for corporate personnel. “The company’s biggest concern is the need to retain and attract talented people to execute their plans,” White said. Oshkosh thinks a “special, new headquarters” will help it achieve that goal.
The city that ends up with the new headquarters will be a big winner, White added. “The community that recognizes Oshkosh Corp.’s position … will reap the rewards, as the company has a positive long-term outlook [and]believes in their strategy, products, and customer growth.”
Illustration: This is one of two concepts for redevelopment of Lakeshore Municipal Golf Course as a corporate headquarters site.