RHINELANDER - Applause echoed from the rafters of a taller, much fuller building on Kemp Street in Rhinelander Thursday morning. Expera Specialty Solutions dedicated its new, huge paper products coater, which was installed over the last year.
"It's just a beautiful project," Expera President and CEO Russ Wanke said. "[There are] quite a few generations that have come through the [Rhinelander] plant and an investment like this will have many more generations [to follow.]"
The machine makes a paper layer that protects materials for airplane wing assembly in planes like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Expera has two similar coaters in its mill across town, but Wanke says without adding this third line, they risked losing clients. Expera's plant is one of just a few in the world that can make the paper products.
"Tremendous support and that allowed us to keep this aggressive project on timeline," Wanke said.
That support came in the form of a $15 million loan from Oneida County, which was approved 17 to 1 in September 2016. It's an investment County Board Chairman Dave Hintz saw as having a lot of positives, including the hiring of 20 new workers. About 500 people work for Expera in Rhinelander. The company estimates it has a direct economic impact of $200 million.
"Bringing jobs, improving the economy, and making use of a building that was literally a dinosaur," Hintz said.
Transforming the nearly 100-year-old former Printpack building -- which sat empty for several years after that company built a new facility on Highway 17 in 2014 -- required raising the roof, ordering a machine in South Korea, and reassembling it in Rhinelander.
Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch told the crowd on Thursday that she loves Expera. Kleefisch says Expera's willingness to adapt to a changing paper industry puts the company now on the "cutting edge."
"Those who have changed with people's needs are the ones who have succeeded in not just staying alive, but actually thriving," Kleefisch said. "That's what we see Expera doing today."
Expera plans to pay back its loan over the next six years, but it might not be done expanding. Wanke says the building has space to add another coating line in the Kemp Street building, which could happen in two years.
"Wisconsin's a manufacturing state, so they should be very proud that that manufacturing legacy continues, not only in the state of Wisconsin, but particularly here in Rhinelander," Wanke said.
The Board of Commissioners of Public Lands provided the money for Oneida County's loan to Expera. The interest Expera pays on the loan will go from the BCPL into school libraries around the state.
OSHKOSH, WIS. (AP) - A Wisconsin teenager who was shot and wounded when he stabbed a school resource officer has been ordered to stand trial.
Grant Fuhrman, 17, is charged as an adult with attempted first-degree intentional homicide in the Dec. 3 attack at Oshkosh West High School.
Fuhrman is accused of stabbing Mike Wissink multiple times with a barbecue fork. Court documents say the officer was unable to reach his stun gun so he shot Fuhrman twice. Neither was seriously injured.
The school was evacuated and classes were cancelled for two days.
MADISON - Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers announced Sunday he wants state lawmakers to pass a package of bills aimed at curbing youth vaping and educating the public about vaping's potential dangers.
The bills Evers, a Democrat, is requesting would ban vaping and vapor products on K-12 campuses and expand the definition of public health emergencies. Another bill would fund a public health campaign to address youth vaping in the state and a fourth proposal would expand the enforcement capacity of the Departments of Revenue and Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection to prevent vaping products from being sold to minors.
The governor's office outlined his proposals in a press release Sunday.
"As a parent, grandparent, and lifelong educator, I am deeply concerned about the health and well-being of our kids," Evers said in a statement. "Vaping is a serious public health epidemic and it is time to take action."
The governor's office said vaping products pose serious health risks to young users because the nicotine contained in e-cigarettes can harm parts of the brain that control attention and learning.
IRON COUNTY - One person died in a snowmobiling incident in Iron County early Sunday morning. The victim was identified as a 47-year-old female.
According to a press release by the Iron County Sheriff's Department, dispatch received a call at 1:52 a.m. reporting a snowmobile crashed on Trail 17 just outside Hurley and the operator was unresponsive.
First responders arrived at 2:04 a.m. and began taking life saving measures. The driver was then transported by rescue sled to Beacon ambulance and then to Aspirus GVH in Ironwood, MI.
After continued life-saving measures, the 47-year-old female was pronounced dead at Aspirus Hospital.
EAGLE RIVER - Professional snowmobilers took to the racetrack in Eagle River this weekend. However, they weren't the only ones riding on some top-of-the line sleds.
Arctic Cat was at the derby offering demo rides on their 2021 models. People got a chance to try out the different machines, and put money down on a model of their choice.
Sales director Joe Klosterman said it's important for people to try before they buy.
"We do it to give an experience to the consumer," said Klosterman. "You wouldn't buy a car without driving it. We've also got a new model this year that I think is going to bring a lot of new people into the industry."
Demo workers took guests out on a 10-mile loop to experience some of the best trails in the Northwoods. Those trails featured curbs, some fresh powder, and lots of bumps to test the machines' suspension.
Klosterman said Arctic Cat sold lots of sleds over the weekend thanks to the promotion.
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