After a historic paper mill in downtown Neenah closed in 2006, the 16-acre site was in danger of becoming an eyesore that lowered property values and hindered economic development. The city acquired the property to convert it to a mixed-use commercial and retail center with public green space and waterfront access. Company officials at Plexus Corporation, one of the city’s largest employers, made an early commitment to move the corporation’s headquarters to the site, which helped the project move forward. The project included demolishing the building, remediating the site, constructing Plexus Corporation’s headquarters, creating a park and river walk, and building a public plaza.
The city received a $700,000 brownfield grant from WEDC and more than $500,000 in assessment and reuse grants from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) for the project. Today, 382 Plexus jobs are located in downtown Neenah, and 75 employees are slated for a soon-to-open medical clinic. Together, these two new buildings are assessed at more than $23 million, and Plexus is looking to further expand by 2015. The project won the WDNR’s annual natural resources award in 2011 and Brownfield Renewal’s economic impact award in 2012. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has also awarded Neenah two additional grants of $400,000 for community-wide hazardous substance assessments, which will allow it to transform other brownfield sites.
Port Washington boasts a proud legacy as a fishing capital, but when iconic Smith Bros. Fish Market closed in 2006, a large downtown building became vacant.