GB port study highlights areas for growth, consolidation

The snow and ice-covered Fox and East River ship turning basin is seen on Feb. 18, 2014.
The snow and ice-covered Fox and East River ship turning basin is seen on Feb. 18, 2014.

GREEN BAY – Hundreds of ships move millions of tons of cargo in and out of the Port of Green Bay each year.

A new study by Brown County is highlighting ways for the port to buoy possible growth.

"I think, simply, it's a tool,” said Dean Haen, the port manager, “We're trying to be an enabler of economic development."

With roughly three miles of riverfront access, the Port of Green Bay Economic Opportunity Study says the port is ripe for redevelopment. It even lays out potential port expansion properties like a real estate buyer’s guide.

Currently, the port has 15 industrial businesses – spanning from the mouth of the Fox River, south towards Ashwaubenon. The bulk of the port's yearly business is in coal, limestone and cement.

Haen says room for new businesses to locate in the port is tight.

"They'll say, okay, we need 30 acres, we need dock wall, we need rail," said Haen of some of the amenities industries look for when expanding or relocating.

Because of those needs, the report identifies four zones to consolidate future port business, while laying out possible property hurdles and associated build-out costs, like river dredging.

"It's an effort to create that balance in doing better land-use planning," said Haen. “This is getting us way down the path where we're already talking about – here are the best three properties that would meet your needs."

Except the majority of the properties aren't for sale.

Haen says parcels of property within the port are underutilized. He says the report isn't meant to push the current property owners out, but to help bring new companies and industries in – understanding how to possibly use the land more efficiently.

Some residential property owners whose properties were identified in the report didn't want to talk to FOX 11. However, one riverfront business owner did say he's willing to listen, if the money being offered is right.

Port plan incorporates long-term city, county plans

The port report takes into account long-standing city and county development plans, especially as work is being done to revitalize the downtown and its shoreline.

"It's definitely something that's on our radar screen here in the city,” said Nic Sparacio, a planner with the City of Green Bay.

Sparacio says there's a balance between industry and public land use – especially as long-term riverfront redevelopment plans are finalized.

“But because there's an economically productive use (on industrial sites) now, you're not going to see that in our current downtown Master Plan."

Port, study parallel purpose of downtown development organizations

Downtown development leaders say the report clearly – and objectively – looks at what is happening with development of the downtown riverfront and plans for the future.

"One of the things I got out of the report is there's a marketing component," said Jeff Mirkes, executive director of two of the city’s four Business Improvement District groups.

Mirkes is often a go-to resource for businesses looking to find available office space and resources in the Downtown or Olde Main Street corridor.

“[The report asks] how do we think forward about what some opportunities might be?" said Mirkes. "And then, get the word out about suitable properties."

Properties that could be home to new businesses – and jobs – in the future.

Coal pile questions linger

As for the piles of coal along the river, the report acknowledges efforts have been made to move the piles out of the downtown area. But says a site that meets both the coal company and the city's needs has yet to be found.