February 12, 2016
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The large plots of field at the Southwest and Northwest corners of Green Bay Road and Highway L (18th Street) in Somers would be ripe for development. ( overhead image by google maps )

The Agenda: Down the highway


In a few years, Green Bay Road through northern Kenosha County will look totally different than it does today.

I’m a newcomer to Kenosha; I have lived here for only 25 years. But even I recall the two-lane blacktop Green Bay Road used to be, especially as it stretched northward toward Racine. There were no streetlights, and by the time you reached Highway L heading north, you might as well have been in North Dakota.

Now, the intersection of Highway L (18th Street) and Green Bay Road will no doubt be the next spot for large-scale development. Signs from a new broker for both the southwest corner and the northwest corner plots at that intersection suggest a renewed push to turn that farmland into something else. (My guess would be some sort of retail developments, but that's the cynic in me talking.)

Brian Boeckenstedt is remodeling Bella Vita Banquets, formerly Marino's, in New Munster. ( BILL SIEL )

Marino’s transforms into Bella Vita


Bella Vita means beautiful life — the very thing Heather and Brian Boeckenstedt want to start couples off with at the family’s so-named, newly renovated banquet hall in Wheatland.

“We wanted to pick a name that reflected our Italian heritage and one that meant something to us,” Heather said of the name.

The Boeckenstedt’s are busy putting the finishing touches on the 17,000-square-foot hall, that has three convertible banquet rooms that can host events for 100 to 600 guests.

Snap-on CEO Nick Pinchuk speaks during a program at the company's Kenosha headquarters in 2014. ( KENOSHA NEWS FILE PHOTO BY BILL SIEL )

Snap-on’s quarterly sales fall, earnings rise


Snap-on Inc. reported 2015 fourth-quarter consolidated operating earnings of $207.3 million, riding credit financing and domestic and international sales of tools and diagnostic equipment to overcome some shortfalls in the military and oil and gas units.

The Kenosha-based tool and professional equipment manufacturer, on Thursday posted earnings of $2.22 per share for the quarter, an increase over the $1.97 per share posted for the same period a year ago.

Operating earnings in the quarter improved to 22.7 percent of revenues. For fourth-quarter 2014, Snap-on reported consolidated operating earnings of $187.4 million, or 20.4 percent of revenues,

Twin Disc reports loss, suspends cash dividend

This article has been revised since its original posting.

Racine-based Twin Disc Inc. announced Tuesday it lost money in its second quarter, and separately announced it would suspend the company’s quarterly cash dividend as a cost savings and cash allocation initiative.

Reporting financial results for the fiscal 2016 second quarter and first half ended Dec. 25, 2015, the company stated that its “significant decline in fiscal 2016 sales is the result of reduced demand” for oil- and gas-related products.

After decades of operating car dealerships in Kenosha, the LeMay family has left the scene. ( BRIAN PASSINO )

The Agenda: Closings, re-openings and change


Transitions, departures and renewals are all part of an evolving business community such as Kenosha. And for the past few weeks change may be the most constant element.

A historic name in local auto sales seems to have left the community for good.

For more than 60 years, the LeMay family sold cars in Kenosha. Now, the last entity to carry the family name—The LeMay Auto Group, 8220 75th St., a used car dealership—has closed. The cars that had been on the lot have been removed.

Joanne Szymaszek ( )

The Ladder: Szymaszek to lead Johnson Insurance


Joanne Szymaszek has been named president of Johnson Insurance Services.

Szymaszek’s industry experience spans three decades, having spent more than 14 years at Humana Inc. She most recently served as market leader for the health insurer’s Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota markets, where she focused on managed health care, workplace wellness and productivity, and building teams to support a high-performance environment.

Justin Mathis, owner of Wausau Homes Kenosha, recently earned the company’s Excellence in Marketing award. It was presented at the annual Wausau Homes Marketing Conference in Madison. Based in its namesake city, Wausau Homes has been building custom homes in partnership with local builders throughout the Midwest for over 50 years.

Al Cossio, owner of Converting Solutions Inc., stands beside one of his company's holiday creations. ( BRIAN PASSINO )

Made in Kenosha: Converting Solutions finding success


Converting Solutions Inc. isn’t a big company with a large staff of graphic artists and design engineers.

Yet, the Kenosha firm is rapidly becoming well-known among the nation’s iconic retailers and fast-food restaurants.

The company helps its clients ceate images for new products and services, promote a menu specialty or catch customers’ attention with eye-popping irresistible, life-sized cut-outs.

Lois Pade ( )

The Ladder: Decorating Den honored by Houzz


Decorating Den Interiors of Kenosha has won Best Of Service on Houzz, a leading platform for home remodeling and design.

The 30-year-old design firm was chosen by many of the more than 35 million monthly unique users that comprise the Houzz community. Houzz also includes more than one million active home building, remodeling and design industry professionals.

The Best Of Houzz is awarded annually in three categories: Design, Customer Service and Photography. Customer Service honors are based on several factors, including the number and quality of client reviews a professional received in 2015.

One unit of Bulls Eye Center in Pleasant Prairie will feature two popular national eateries: Five Guys and Potbelly. A spokesman for the leasing company said the restaurants should be open by summer. ( SUBMITTED PHOTO )

The Agenda: Eateries keep coming to Pleasant Prairie


It’s difficult to miss the several retail construction projects these days in Pleasant Prairie, especially the activity near Costco. Sometime in late spring or early summer, Bulls Eye Center will come to life and three popular national quick casual restaurants will open, almost on top of one another.

Potbelly, Five Guys and Chipotle — all of them extremely popular national chains — will expand dining choices to the west.

One of the best things about Potbelly, as far as I’m concerned, is that it’s one of the largest purveyors of live music in the country, at least by number of locations. Lunchtime at Potbelly, which got its start as a single shop in Chicago, usually features acoustic music from local and regional performers, most often a guy or gal with a guitar belting out covers and original music.

Small businesses, big burdens

NEW YORK — Blood pressures are rising at many small businesses now that tax season is underway.

Although many owners hire accountants and attorneys to complete their income tax returns, taxes are a hassle. In a survey released last year by the advocacy group National Small Business Association, nearly 60 percent of the owners surveyed said the administrative burdens were the biggest problems posed by federal taxes. And 85 percent of the more than 675 owners said they relied on a professional to prepare their returns.

Owners can make the process easier by being organized and watching out for tax pitfalls, accountants say. Here are four tax issues small business owners should be thinking about now and year-round:

Kelli Steckbauer ( SUBMITTED PHOTO )

The Ladder: Steckbauer promoted at MG Design


Kelli Steckbauer has been promoted to vice president of operations for MG Design.

MG offers exhibit design, and event planning and management services. Steckbauer will oversee all aspects of exhibit production and logistics, as well as continuing to manage the company’s account service and global account teams.

Steckbauer has been with the Pleasant Prairie-based company for more than 12 years, and was most recently the company’s vice president for global and client services.

Workers and large machinery move earth Tuesday at the Festival Foods store site in Somers. The project remains on pace for a July opening. ( BRIAN PASSINO )

Festival Foods set to open Somers site in July


Large earth-moving equipment moved onto the site of the future Festival Foods store in Somers. By sometime in July, the third local store of the family-operated Wisconsin chain will be open, bringing as many as 275 full- and part-time jobs to the community.

The store will be Festival Foods’ 23rd in Wisconsin. Guests will find an enlarged natural and organic foods department, fresh sushi, a healthy-choices salad and hot food bar, an extensive deli, catering services, and a complete selection of groceries, meats and produce. The store, located just north of 31st Street and west of Green Bay Road, will operate 24 hours a day.

According to Mark Anderson, operations lead for the grocery store group, the store will be slightly different than the current stores in Mount Pleasant and Kenosha. Most significantly, at 85,000 square feet, it will be 10,000 square feet larger than the Festival Foods store on 80th Street. It will also have a slightly larger configuration, with the bakery department, falling in line right after the produce and deli sections of the store.

KENOSHA NEWS PHOTO BY REX DAVENPORTWayfinding signs could make it easier for visitors to make their way downtown, if the signs were ever installed. ( )

The Agenda: Kenosha in need of ‘wayfinding’ signage


In September 2012 consultants for the city completed the first draft of a study that would create a unified plan for downtown signage to aid tourists and locals alike.

You’ve seen them in every tourist spot in the world. In development-speak, they are referred to as “wayfinding” signage.

A finalized plan was delivered in April 2013. It’s fascinating reading. It was developed based on input from a number of parties: the city, transit officials, the state Department of Transportation and other stakeholders.

David Moyer ( )

The Ladder: Promotions announced at Community State Bank


Union Grove-based Community State Bank has announced the promotion of nine employees.

— Kevin Babik, formerly a teller and credit analyst, has been promoted to senior credit analyst manager.

— Ginny Bower, a 35-year employee of the bank and deposit operations supervisor for 15 years, will now serve as assistant vice president of deposit operations.

Gourmet Foods International close to opening local facility

Gourmet Foods International, an Atlanta-based cheese distributor, will move into its new Kenosha facility as early as March. GFI purchased the building at 9629 59th Place in August and has been remodeling it to fit its specific needs.

“We are very excited to finally have a warehouse in Wisconsin and Kenosha is the best spot in the state for our future plans,” said Doug Jay, president of Gourmet Foods International. The 35,200-square-foot building will be GFI’s first Midwest location and will allow the company to serve the Milwaukee, Chicago and Minneapolis markets. The company plans to have as many as 50 employees at the facility, previously occupied by Process Retail Group, within the next two years.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation awarded GFI $200,000 in economic development tax credits to support Gourmet Foods’ investment. The Kenosha Area Business Alliance provided $1.1 million financing. That included a $1 million low-interest loan and a $100,000 forgivable loan from the Kenosha County High Impact Fund, which was created by Kenosha County to support high value economic development projects.

Downtown Kenosha, as photographed in 2013. ( KENOSHA NEWS FILE PHOTO BY BRIAN PASSINO )

The Agenda: Looking ahead


For seven years I worked out of town.

Two of those years were in Alexandria, Va., (which I will get back to in a minute) and the other five were spent working in Bloomington, Ind. My weekends at home left me little time to explore Kenosha, especially the downtown and other retail districts. Over those seven years a lot of things happened in Kenosha — good and bad — that I never saw.

All of that is just a way of saying how happy I am to be writing business news here. Since May, I have have been able to get back to my original career: newspapers. It has given me the opportunity to visit downtown every work day, and in some cases to write about the future of the core of our city.

WEDC launches new tax credit program

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. has streamlined its business incentive tax credit process and set eligibility guidelines for companies that seek credits for creating jobs, expanding or training.

The new Business Development Tax Credit program replaces the Economic Development Tax credit and jobs Tax Credit programs. It became effective Jan. 1 and is designed to be an incentive for new and expanding businesses.

It provides refundable tax credits to existing companies or those relocating to Wisconsin.

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