When a central Illinois trolley manufacturer announced plans to move its entire operation to Crandon in May, many in the town of 2,000 expressed their joy.
Double K Inc. is coming to Crandon because the owners want to live year-round where they have often vacationed, and they also have family ties to the area.
The company, which manufactures off-road racing cars and trolleys for theme parks and tourist attractions, will open with 10 employees, but within a year plans to construct two new buildings in the city's industrial park and add 50 more employees.
Double K's move to Crandon, about 100 miles northwest of Green Bay, also may be good news for three local metal fabrication businesses, says Frank Sonderman, president of the Forest County Economic Development Corp. "The trolley company will help other existing light industry by giving them extra spinoff work."
Crandon mayor Dorothy Kegley also welcomes the new industry. "There have been winters when we would go up to 21 percent unemployment."
Although Crandon has long relied on the timber industry for jobs (Forest County is 70 percent forest land), efforts to diversify the economy are increasing. The industrial park, opened a little over a year ago, is important to development efforts, Sonderman says. And its location adjacent to the Wisconsin Central Railroad line is a definite plus in drawing new manufacturing jobs, he adds.
Kegley says Crandon's economy is clearly on the upswing. In addition to manufacturing and timber jobs, three nearby Indian reservations employ about 700 people at their casinos. "Over the last two years, we've issued more residential building permits (21) than in any of the last 20 years. In a three-year period not so long ago not a single permit was issued," Kegley says. And the December 1992 unemployment rate was only 4.4 percent.