Sobiek: Portage thriving

sobiek 2016Positive Portage items on menu at Chamber luncheon

Steve Sobiek, Director of Business Development and Planning for the City of Portage, was the featured speaker at the Portage Area Chamber of Commerce Business Luncheon on Tuesday, March 1.

Speaking to Chamber members gathered at the B & B Hitching Post, Sobiek enthusiastically opened his remarks by noting the city’s collaboration with many organizations and service groups, claiming, “Every day is a great day to be living in Portage!”

Sobiek mentioned many positive developments going on in our city beginning with the Columbia County Gateway Building Project, which is redeveloping and cleaning up both sides of the canal. This could bring 50,000 new people to downtown Portage and serve as an economic catalyst sparking interest in new business as people are drawn to the focal point of county government, Sobiek said.

Manufacturing plays a big role in the landscape of Portage and is an area where the city has an advantage over other communities. Sobiek cited the growing manufacturing base and the expansions of AMPI, St. Gobain, Encapsys and at Dawn Food’s, an expansion due partly to a new contract with United Airlines. “Potato salad made right here in Portage could be served on a flight to Shanghai, China,” Sobiek proclaimed, illustrating the point of how local manufacturing can have global applications.

One growing business that Sobiek is particularly proud of started the business in their home, moved into the Portage Enterprise Center, and continued to grow and is now taking ownership of the former Sharp Shooters location, creating 12 new jobs along the way. The Portage Enterprise Center helped that business expand, and in the last three years the PEC and Madison College Advanced Training Center have created or retained close to 400 jobs.

Sobiek described a couple other positives that bode well for Portage: A former Chicago-area company, Loggerhead Deco looked at 13 communities and decided upon Portage. A company from Illinois is considering the former PolyOne building.

In addition to manufacturing, Sobiek is looking forward to the construction of new homes, too. The Portage High students in the building trades program, under the guidance of trade professionals, are constructing 3-bedroom homes on School Road. Sobiek also mentioned a new program, Build Portage, will start helping low income families who need home renovations.

This year will bring many more developments to Portage. Sobiek mentioned the Skate Park moving forward and bringing a new demographic to Portage. People will also come to Portage for wellness, now that Divine Savior Healthcare has recently opened LaVita. The Portage Area Community Fund is a new endowment that will soon assemble an advisory board to contribute toward projects.

Sobiek is anticipating Walmart to makeover its store, while awaiting an “opportunity” near the old Kmart location. The Culver’s parcel is also being redeveloped, he said, mentioning a possible annexation of the adjacent Schultz farm now that Divine Savior Healthcare has purchased the property. The Portage Airport is also going to start removing encroaching nearby trees and structures as part of a federal grant.

Looking further out, Sobiek noted a number of highway projects the city has on the radar. He said the city is working with the Department of Transportation on construction of the southern gateway, the 16-51 intersection, which is five to seven years away from being redeveloped. A potential roundabout has been discussed for the intersection of Highway 127 and 16 and there is a study underway looking at the Highway 33 corridor from Pacific Township to Baraboo.

Sobiek touched on many other positive developments that will be coming in the year ahead and we will continue to keep you informed of all the great things happening in Portage.

Brad Conrad
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