Published October 1, 1997 | October 1997 issue
A one-of-a-kind industrial park that brings wood-based businesses together in one place to share facilities, materials and expertise has taken root in Ladysmith.
The Ladysmith/Rusk County Forest Industry Park has been operating since last year. In that time five forest products companies, including a window manufacturer, a recycled paper mill, an office furniture manufacturer, a prefabricated home builder and an animal bedding producer, have located in the park and employ more than 200. And the Northwest Regional Planning Commission in Spooner is working with three other potential tenants for the 22,000 square-foot complex, says Jan Hacker, the commission's forest resource specialist who developed the park project.
Companies share such wood industry-specific services as a paint and finish booth and a centralized dust collection system, as well as the typical industrial park business services, equipment and conference facilities. Two companies share warehouse space. The planning commission provides some business finance and technical assistance. And it works with regional lenders in partnership with city, county and regional economic development authorities to assemble loan packages.
With the productive, but impermanent mining employment in job-poor Rusk County coming to an end, the development of an industrial park in Ladysmith offers a needed boost to the local economy. Forest products businesses are a natural focus for the region's economic development efforts as they already contribute to Wisconsin's economy, Hacker says. In keeping with that focus, Rusk County has adopted an economic development policy that emphasizes "keeping our logs here," Hacker says.
Hacker says the Forest Industry Park project has really just begun. Plans call for bringing in component suppliers to support existing tenants and new businesses that will use byproducts of those already in the park. One such demonstration project currently under way pairs a paper mill with a plastics molding firm: The mill's sludge is mixed with baled recycled materials to produce molded plastic items.