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Business & Labor Make Referendum Unique

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It's very unusual when business and labor organizations agree on anything anymore.

Enter Fox Valley Technical College's April 3 public referendum to change that playing field!

The Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce & Industry, along with the Fox Valley Area Labor Council AFL-CIO, have both officially endorsed the college's facility expansion plans.

The dual support speaks to the level of broad appeal that FVTC's referendum brings to both economic development and quality of life in the region.  People are turning to FVTC, now the state's largest technical college, in record numbers, making the referendum a vital investment in education.

Read news article below for the full story from regional newspapers, the Appleton Post-Crescent and Oshkosh Northwestern.

FVTC Referendum Gets Backers

Business, labor rally behind plan for community benefit

APPLETON — Business and labor organizations don't always agree, but both groups have set aside their differences to rally behind one cause — passage of Fox Valley Technical College's $66.5 million referendum.

The two groups say the April 3 referendum, which would cover assorted campus upgrades and expansion at the college's main Grand Chute campus as well as its facilities in Oshkosh and Chilton if approved, would yield broad community benefits.

The Fox Valley Area Labor Council AFL-CIO said it endorsed the referendum during its February meeting. This followed an endorsement in mid-February by the board of directors at the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce & Industry, which represents more than 1,400 businesses.

"I think the message to the community here is when you get two sides with divergent opinions the past few years (supporting) a project like this, it shows we both believe it to be in the best interests of the entire Fox Valley community," said Mark Westphal, president of the labor council, which is affiliated with about 35 regional unions and represents about 9,000 AFL-CIO members.

He said enhancing FVTC's offerings will improve the community and in this instance, political views and stance on issues should be set aside.

"FVTC services a broad cross-section of the community," Westphal said. "It will not only benefit the business community, but middle-class workers and young students trying to better themselves."

Mike Weller, who serves as treasurer of Friends of FVTC, a group campaigning for passage of the referendum, said having the business community and labor rally behind the referendum shows both recognize the college's importance to the region.

"In terms of meeting the needs of the community, it meets everyone's needs," Weller said. "The tech offers a place where people can improve their skills and businesses need those people to help the area grow."

FVTC's $66.5 million proposal would cover building improvements to deal with increasing enrollments, crowded facilities and the growing need for a skilled and trained work force.

It includes seven projects with most of the proceeds, if approved, going toward a $32.5 million public safety training center that would be built on 74 acres of leased land on the south end of Outagamie County Regional Airport in Greenville.

Other projects for the Grand Chute campus include an $11.9 million health simulation and technology center, $7.4 million student success center, $6.2 million transportation center expansion and $3.5 million agriculture center expansion.

The referendum package also includes borrowing $1 million to purchase land next to the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center in Oshkosh for future expansion, $1.4 million to buy the Chilton Regional Center, which the college now leases, and $300,000 to add a classroom/ lab to its Chilton facility.

Larry Avila writes for the Appleton Post-Crescent.

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