Oshkosh Northwestern Media reported Monday that the local economy was resilient following more than 1,100 layoffs at the defense contractor last year. Even after those layoffs, unemployment rates in Winnebago, Outagamie and Fond du Lac counties continued to decline for the rest of the year.
Last year, a job fair helped more than 500 laid off Oshkosh Corp. workers find new jobs, with companies having more slots to fill than applicants. And several new programs are in place to help employees who will be laid off this summer find work.
A job service offered through Wisconsin's technical colleges reports that even now, 19 companies in the region have 121 welding and metal fabrication job openings.
"It shows the brilliance of the economy up there," said Reed Hall, CEO of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., the state's chief economic development agency.
Last week WEDC unveiled a special loan program targeting businesses in Oshkosh Corp.'s supply chain. The pilot program will provide loans or loan guarantees of up to $250,000 to companies for projects or expenses that may not be eligible for traditional financing.
That money can be used to help add staff, Hall said.
"We certainly understand the impact the Defense Department cuts have and how that ripples through our economy," Hall said. "We're doing what we can to retain these jobs here in Wisconsin. And Oshkosh Corp. will make it through. We have a lot of confidence in Oshkosh Corp., that they will ... grow again."
This summer's layoffs are driven by declining orders from the U.S. Department of Defense for the company's military transport trucks.
In light of the cutbacks, the Defense Department last fall awarded an $837,000 grant to find ways to help soften the blow of the layoffs on the supply chain, including looking at ways to diversify the economy.