Letter details why Oshkosh has its eye on Lakeshore

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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.

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About Author

Miles Maguire

Miles Maguire is the author of Advanced Reporting: Essential Skills for 21st Century Journalism. He was the founding editor of the Oshkosh Community News Network, a nonprofit online news organization whose work was cited as a notable innovation in journalism in the 2005 Knight-Batten Awards. Send questions, comments and suggestions to miles.maguire@yahoo.com.

2 Comments

  1. Andy Phillips on

    I think the letter is quite interesting. After reading the outline of the type of property that OC is looking to build its Taj Mahal, I fail to see how Oshkosh could continue to be a consideration. Apparently Oshkosh leadership is willing to bend over as far as OC demands — even offering up its 2nd best piece of public property while upsetting a significant number of residents. Oshkosh has the WOW property to offer, but little else that would satisfy the list. The last two bullet points clearly do not favor Oshkosh.

    Personally, I am almost past being upset about this issue. Ridding our city of nearly 25% of park land does not seem to bother our city leaders. They seem happy (giddy actually) to walk about with brown stained noses. The trained corporate monkeys dance whenever the music starts to play. They have people write letters to the Oshkosh Northwestern claiming that we should be happy to sell off the golf course and that the city shouldn’t be in the golf course business. (More fuel for the libertarians still living in the 18th century.) They will be happy if OC chooses the beautiful golf course property. They will declare this a victory for Oshkosh. They will throw parties and pat them selves on the back. Good for them; not good for the rest of us.

    If the sale occurs, Oshkosh will be fiscally better off at least until it is held hostage again. In the long term, unless the City takes the money and creates another WOW park area (golf course or not) at least equal to the total area lost in the sale, the citizens will lose. Keeping park space next to Oshkosh Corporate Gigantor Company is throwing salt in the wounds of the citizens. I, for one, do not want to walk through a park that is adjacent to the company that kicked out my golf course! That would be really relaxing. Not. As long as my dog can dump there, I may have a use for that park.

    In the end, I wonder if all of this arguing and debate is wasted. Oshkosh is clearly not like Milwaukee or Chicago. Oshkosh is not even like Green Bay or Madison or Waukesha. No one ever used the word “diverse” when describing this city unless in relation to the fish in Lake Winnebago. (I am not “hating”, but being honest about this nice town that I have called home for 29 years!) The reference in the OC letter to Caterpillar is illuminating if not an actual portent of the future. OC’s silence in this process is equally suggestive of the direction it is leaning. Mercury at least made a demand and feigned a move out of state. Not OC. Crickets. This does not bode well for the future of OC in Oshkosh, regardless of what the city leaders offer to to the corporate gods.

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