Original article posted by Fond du Lac Reporter: http://www.fdlreporter.com/article/20130829/FON0101/308290334/Gov-Walker-helps-dedicate-new-Wells-Vehicle-Electronics-facility-Fond-du-Lac-story-video-?gcheck=1
Companies such as Wells Vehicle Electronics are proof that Wisconsin can compete with any business in any country around the world, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said Thursday at the grand opening of the organization’s new facility.
The company, which has called Fond du Lac home for 110 years, hosted a celebration to showcase the 64,000-square-foot addition. Construction on the approximately $7.1 million project began last September.
Walker joined many local and state officials, as well as the Wells leadership team, in speaking during the dedication ceremony.
Wells is a global manufacturer of vehicle electronics for automotive, marine, off-highway, industrial and heavy-duty industries. The expanded facility will allow for additional product lines with companies like Harley Davidson and the creation of 73 new jobs. Dan Lauby, vice president of operations for Wells, said 39 of those positions have already been filled.
'A leading company'
Wells president Dave Peace said he hopes the expansion will help attract new customers and engineers.
“With this facility, when we bring our customers in (and) when we bring in young engineers to try and bring them into our organization, we’re connected up and we’re matched up with what we truly are, which is a leading company,” Peace said.
The new facility boasts engineering labs, test labs, a state-of-the art automotive tech garage, a tool room to support new product development, and office space.
The high amount of automation in the new facility and others throughout the state allows Wisconsin to compete with businesses around the world, but also shows the need for more highly-trained workers, Walker said.
“There will continue to be jobs with companies like this, but the jobs won’t be ones you just walk in the door,” Walker said. “You’ve got to have a skill set.”
Wells is actively recruiting manufacturing technicians, engineers and computer aided design (CAD) designers and hopes to fill 24 positions by the end of 2014, according to a press release.
“This isn’t just a good company to work at, this is a company that’s vested in it’s employees,” Walker said. “And as much (as) this physical expansion is great, what’s really great is the people that are in it and the people that will be joining.”
Walker said he hopes to encourage people to pursue careers in engineering and other areas of manufacturing through a two-year tuition freeze and the University of Wisconsin flex option.
The tuition freeze will help make college more affordable, the governor said.
“Making it more affordable with a two-year tuition freeze in all of our institutions in the University of Wisconsin is tremendously helpful for everybody, not just for engineering students,” he said.
The UW flex option is geared more toward non-traditional learners who may have some college experience but went into the working world for some reason or another, Walker said.
The program is currently emphasizes engineering, health care and information technology positions and will allow people to use the skills they’ve gained during their work experience toward a degree.
“For example, a three-credit course might be broken down into 12 modules and if a person can test out of 10 of the 12 modules, then they only have to take the time and spend enough money to pay for the two modules where they’re not competent in it and get trained on that,” Walker explained.
This will help people cut down on the time and money needed to finish earn degrees, Walker said.
Walker also said part of the budget will also go toward programs to help students as young as sixth grade identify career and academic plans.
Funding for the Wells project comes from a $500,000 forgivable loan from Fond du Lac County and Fond du Lac County Economic Development Corp., and a $1 million Tax Incremental Financing District created by the city of Fond du Lac, according to a news release. Wells is also eligible for $1.25 million in tax credits through the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.
The city has taken over ownership of the old Wells facility on Brooke Street, said Fond du Lac community development director Wayne Rollin.
“We have some redevelopment plans for that building, so hopefully you’ll like what you see as that project unfolds over the next year or two,” he said.