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Appleton: Economy

Major Industries and Commercial Activity

Since the mid-nineteenth century the paper industry and its allied industries have been the foundation for Appleton's economy. In fact, the Fox River Valley is home to the highest concentration of paper-making facilities in the world, and accounts for more than 10 percent of the area's total employment and one-third of all manufacturing employment. With 80 paper manufacturing facilities and 90 publishing companies, the Fox Cities (a cluster of 16 small cities along the region's Fox River) has the highest concentration of paper-related companies in the world. Of nearly as great importance is the metals-machinery industry, which produces welders, fire and utility trucks, crushing and screening equipment, farm machinery, and iron and brass castings. The local economy is also diversifying; six insurance companies are headquartered in the Fox Valley, as well as a growing network of thriving financial institutions. The Fox Cities region is also an important center for regional trade and services. The Wisconsin Department of Revenue predicts a 5.1 percent increase in employment in the Appleton area between 2003 and 2007, with most of that growth coming in the service, finance, insurance, and real estate sectors.

Items and goods produced: paper; paper products; books; metals and machine products; farm machinery; knit; wire; canned goods

Incentive Programs—New and Existing Companies

Local programs

The city of Appleton has four tax incremental financing programs, which it uses to finance public costs like infrastructure and land assembly and sometimes to assist in development costs of a project. The city also has a gap financing program—a community development loan pool resulting from a partnership between the city and seven of Appleton's financial institutions. It provides funds to fill the gap between what a bank will lend and the full cost of a project, and can be used for capital expansion, procuring new business locations, and capital equipment.

State programs

Wisconsin corporate taxes remain among the lowest in the nation due to property tax exemptions on manufacturing machinery and equipment, inventory exemptions, and lack of franchise and unitary taxes, according to a study done by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Association (WEDA) and the Wisconsin Economic Development Institute (WEDI) are two nonprofit agencies that provide information and financial services, legal and legislative assistance, and networking opportunities for their member businesses. On the government side, the Division of Business Development of the Wisconsin Department of Commerce provides technical assistance and financial incentives to businesses in the areas of business planning, site selection, capitalization, permits, training and recruitment, and research and development. On April 28, 2000, Governor Tommy G. Thompson signed into law a bill that created the Wisconsin Technology Council, a nonprofit, nonpartisan board that serves to create, develop and retain science and technology-based business in Wisconsin, and to serve as an advisor to the Governor and the Legislature. The Council also serves as the key link between the state's colleges and universities and the business expertise and capital offered by the financial service industry. Recently the firm published its "Vision 2020: A Model Wisconsin Economy" as a blueprint for its efforts over the next two decades.

Job training programs

Wisconsin ranks in the top 10 states for high school graduation rate, educational expenditures, income distribution and voting rate. A local Chamber of Commerce study found that partnerships between social service providers and employers in the Fox Cities have led to successful workforce development, particularly in creating entry-level employment. The State of Wisconsin has programs available to provide grants to businesses training workers in new technologies. The Fox Valley Technical College is an award-winning vocational and technical training institute that has formed long-standing relationships with several area companies to provide top-quality customized training programs.

Development Projects

Since its inception in 1996, Appleton's Neighborhood Revitalization Program has won national awards, by 2005 having helped four neighborhoods improve both residentially and commercially, with a fifth well underway. In addition, residents have access to the HOME Rental Rehabilitation Loan Program and the Housing Rehabilitation Loan Program for access to low-interest loans for improving their homes or rental units.

Major advancements in the manufacturing sector included the one made by Thomson Newspapers Inc., the parent company of The Post-Crescent, which completed a $35 million printing and distribution facility in Appleton's Northeast Industrial Park in 2001; in 2002 the local design, construction, and engineering firm Hoffman Corporation moved into its own new 40,000 square foot office building.

Also in 2002 the city opened its Fox Cities Performing Arts Center, a $45 million facility that includes a 2,100-seat theater for concerts and theater events, and a 4,000 square foot multi-use hall that can host banquets, meetings, and conventions.

The city also has four designated business parks, the latest opening in 2003 as the Southpoint Commerce Park near State Highway 441. The city also has several redevelopment sites, including Fox River waterfront property, available for residential, commercial, and office development.

Economic Development Information: Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce & Industry, 227 S. Walnut Street, PO Box 1855, Appleton, WI 54913-1855; telephone (920)734-7101. City of Appleton Department of Development, Jim Van Dyke, Development Specialist, 100 North Appleton Street, Appleton, WI 54911; telephone (920)832-6468; fax (920)832-5994; email

Commercial Shipping

Outagamie County Regional Airport is served by Federal Express and Airborne Express. Rail freight is provided by Canadian National, while more than 60 trucking and warehouse firms service the greater Fox Cities area. The Port of Green Bay, 30 miles north of Appleton, and the Port of Milwaukee, 100 miles south, provide access to the Great Lakes shipping corridor.

Labor Force and Employment Outlook

Of some 202,000 workers in the Fox Cities area, 87 percent declared themselves satisfied with the local job market according to a Chamber of Commerce study. The Wisconsin Department of Revenue predicts 5.1 percent employment growth in the Fox Cities region between 2003 and 2007, with the greatest increase in services, finance, insurance, and real estate. The Fox Valley Technical College is an award-winning vocational and technical training institute that has formed long-standing relationships with several area companies to provide top-quality customized training programs.

The following is a summary of data regarding the Appleton labor force, 2004 annual average.

Size of nonagricultural labor force: 118,000

Number of workers employed in . . .

construction and mining: 8,600

manufacturing: 24,400

trade, transportation and utilities: 23,200

information: 2,100

financial activities: 6,700

professional and business services: 11,300

educational and health services: 11,700

leisure and hospitality: 10,500

other services: 5,900

government: 11,300

Average hourly earnings of production workers employed in manufacturing: $16.19 (Wisconsin statewide)

Unemployment rate: 5.2% (February 2005)

Appleton: Economy

Largest employers (2003, Fox Cities region) Number of employees
Kimberly-Clark Corporation 5,782
Theda Care Health System 5,000
Affinity Health System 4,300
City of Appleton 2,500
Plexus Corp. & Affiliates (electronic design) 2,200
Banta Corp. & Affiliates (book and periodicals printing) 1,850
Appleton Area School District 1,724

Cost of Living

The Fox Valley offers a very affordable cost of living, typically two percent below the national average, according to a national research study. With a Median Household Effective Buying Income of more than $40,000 in 2003, the Appleton MSA ranked 87th of 323 in buying income nationally.

The following is a summary of data regarding several key cost of living factors for the Appleton metropolitan area.

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Average House Price: $214,900

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Cost of Living Index: 92.2 (U.S. average = 100.0)

State income tax rate: Ranges from 4.6% to 6.75% (tax year 2005)

State sales tax rate: 5%

Local income tax rate: None

Local sales tax rate: None

Property tax rate: $23.56 per $1,000 of full market value (2003, Outagamie County assessment)

Economic Information: Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce and Industry, 227 South Walnut Street, P.O. Box 1855, Appleton, WI 54912-1855; telephone (920)734-7101; toll-free (800)999-3224; email