OSHKOSH – New high-tech jobs are likely coming to downtown Oshkosh.
With Gov. Scott Walker on hand, web design company DealerFire said Monday afternoon it plans to expand.
With some help from state funds, DealerFire plans to create about 123 jobs over the next three years. This comes as the Oshkosh area is still dealing with last week’s announcement of layoffs at Oshkosh Defense.
“Today, we officially start a new chapter that represents a significant shift in both the internal and external perception of DealerFire as a company,” said Eric Hoopman, DealerFire owner.
Hoopman’s company has been designing websites for car dealerships since 1999. DealerFire currently employs about 65 people, but it hopes to triple its workforce over the next three years.
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation will give the company up to $522,000 in tax credits.
Rob Kleman, the senior vice president of economic development for the Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce, says growth in the technology sector has been one of its priorities.
“They’re great jobs. They’re high-paying IT sector jobs, so we’re excited about that,” said Kleman.
The chamber still plans to focus on expansion in manufacturing.
“Manufacturing is still the backbone of our economy,” said Kleman.
A FOX 11 Fact Check found as of three years ago, 28 percent of workers in Winnebago County have jobs in manufacturing. About two percent have jobs in information technology. The numbers come from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Expansion in manufacturing is important to many in the area, as Oshkosh Defense plans to lay off about 760 workers starting this summer.
Cindy Martinez owns a restaurant right across the street from Oshkosh Defense.
“A lot of them wondering, what are they going to do?” said Martinez.
She wonders how many of the laid off workers will be able to work an IT job, such as the new ones at DealerFire.
“So I’m not sure if they would have to go back to school or something to get those jobs. They wouldn’t able to just go right into them,” said Martinez.
Gov. Walker believes there is room for both manufacturing and IT to grow.
“I think it’s an all of the above strategy for us. It’s not picking one over the other,” said Walker.
Walker says he has been aggressive in working with technical colleges to get workers training for jobs in manufacturing and IT fields.
Both UW-Oshkosh and Fox Valley Technical College have programs that prepare students for IT jobs like the ones that could soon be available at DealerFire.
DealerFire will also quadruple the size of its headquarters. It plans to move to the re-developed historic Frank Percey Gun and Fur House at 531 N. Main St.
The company is spending $1.24 million on renovations. The building is about 100 years old and has been vacant for more than a decade. WEDC has also awarded a $250,000 grant to the City of Oshkosh to assist with the renovation costs.