In Waunakee industrial park, a growth spurt is occurring

The Waunakee Tribune | Bob Khouri Tribune

WAUNAKEE, WI (August 12, 2017) — “The meat and potatoes of the tax base in Waunakee is residential,” advised Todd Schmidt, Waunakee’s economic development director and administrator. Housing comprises 88 percent of the tax base, he said.
But the northeast corner of Waunakee has been bustling with commercial growth in recent months, and indications are that the trend will continue.

Schmidt explained the business and industrial park was started in 1988 and is a relatively new feature to the village.

“It’s a relatively full park. There is a lot of activity going on. Although it’s overall a small part of our economy, it remains its own vibrant part,” he said.

The combined value of the Arboretum/Tierney and MLG Industrial Park Tax Increment Districts has increased by $40,731,500 since they were created in 2000. Just last year, Little Strokes Swim Academy completed a new facility with a six-lane pool on Quinn Drive and newcomer StorageShopUSA built space for commercial storage and office warehouse condos on Moravian Drive.

Schmidt described RenewAire, which has taken over the former warehouse at 201 Raemisch Road, as a “great new partner in the park” with “serious and aggressive growth plans.”

President Chuck Gates explained that RenewAire manufactures energy recovery ventilation systems. Gates said that after an exhaustive search, “We chose the Waunakee site because the location fit our needs well, the village was very supportive, and as a company with a sustainable mission, using an existing building was attractive.”

RenewAire’s 100 employees already exceed what had been projected. The company has averaged double digit growth over the past 15 years and grew nearly 50 percent over the past two. Their remodeling continues.

“Throughout the process we have been welcomed and supported by a variety of community and business leaders. We are very happy with our decision and look forward to becoming a valuable community member,” Gates said.

Waunakee residents Jeff and Susan Tews on Friday broke ground on their new BrightStar assisted living facility at the corner of Arboretum and Quinn Drives. The 29,000-square-foot, 2-story building is projected to be home to 36-40 residents. BrightStar staff will include about 25 full-time equivalent positions.

Jeff Tews said the corner location combined visibility on Arboretum Drive with a quiet setting nestled in the nearby adjacent woods.

According to Tews, the ongoing influx of families to Waunakee “makes it a great site. It’s a great market. It’s a growing community and we think it’s a good match for the quality care we provide.”

Tews added that the village itself was very welcoming and that staff made the process very easy.

Frank H Street is being extended another 500 feet to the east and will accommodate expansion of the Waunakee Business Center owned by St. John Properties. The new building will be 40,733 square feet and similar in design and function to the three existing buildings, according to SJPI’s Regional Partner, Greg Fax.

Fax said the Center’s buildings are 100 percent leased.

“There have been numerous inquiries for space that I cannot accommodate, plus we have a few existing tenants who have expressed expansion needs,” he said.

St. John plans to begin site preparation this fall with the building ready for lease late next summer.

Waunakee’s Schmidt also spoke of expansion and new development in Arboretum Office Park. The Waunakee Veterinary Clinic has plans to relocate to a larger space across the street and add dog daycare. And last month, the Trowbridge Group received Plan Commission approval for a new building at 1021 Quinn Drive, the next phase of its existing campus of buildings.

Schmidt went on to describe healthy expansion going on among many of Waunakee’s established industrial firms.

He called NordGear “the North American headquarters of a major growth industry” and said it is expanding on the northwest corner of its building to accommodate an additional paint line.

Madrax makes “streetscape furniture like benches, flower planters and bike racks,” explained Schmidt. He said their facility, which doubled only about four years ago, is undergoing another 40,000 square foot expansion.

Schmidt reported that cutting edge drug company, SPL, is “on an annual basis doing projects upon projects, adding millions of dollars of value” to accommodate heparin and its other drug products.

And Waunakee’s largest private employer, Uniek, is firmly ensconced in the village and “not long ago entered into a long-term lease renewal,” according to Schmidt.

The economic development director thinks prospective businesses are interested in Waunakee because of “location, location, location” and a warm, welcoming attitude on the part of the village. A firm will be less than 5 miles from the Interstate and only 10 minutes from Dane County Airport.

For its part, Waunakee strives to have accurate information readily available and to be responsive to potential employers. While offering a streamlined process, the village doesn’t sacrifice any standards.

Waunakee’s building design standards, that are a notch above other communities, “have sent some projects packing,” admitted Schmidt. The village won’t be overly aggressive and try to fit a square peg into a round hole.

“We want people who want to be in Waunakee,” Schmidt said.