Schools, likeminded businesses, high quality of life position already strong IT sector for more growth
Home to many national and international IT companies, Oshkosh has cemented its reputation for technology innovation. Companies doing business here include Oracular IS, DealerSocket, Henry Schein, Accu-Com and PODO Integrative Technology, to name a few. With dense high-tech business clusters and resources that are attractive to innovative companies – including a strong education system and highly skilled workforce, the city is well positioned for further growth in the IT sector.
“There is an existing and growing base of information-based technology firms in Oshkosh and the surrounding region. Oshkosh has a very strong higher education system that produces highly skilled talent to fill available positions. Access to a strong education system is a valuable resource for local IT firms and companies in need of IT talent,â€ says Rob Kleman, senior vice president of economic development for the Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce. “The presence of the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and Fox Valley Technical College in our community and our region is a driving force behind growth in the IT sector both through the supply of labor and fueling entrepreneurial activity.”
Kleman says UW Oshkosh offers information systems and computer science programs that are great resources for entrepreneurs and offer a pipeline of skilled employees for IT companies. The computer training and academic programs at Fox Valley Technical College further add to the region’s post-secondary skilled workforce and training offerings.
Javad Ahmad, president and COO of Oracular IS, an IT solutions and consulting company, agrees, adding that his company has relied heavily on the higher education community for workforce development. Not only that, Ahmad says, Oracular has benefited from the research opportunities and transfer of knowledge having a university and community college in its backyard provides.
“Having a university nearby is a great asset. It has a good information technology program, and we’re able to align with them. The university is very open to listening to businesses, and the university invites and welcomes the thought process from the businesses. So that works in our favor,â€ Ahmad says.
Ahmad says another major advantage for IT companies is the robust network of other high-tech companies and entrepreneurs with which to network and share ideas.
“Overall what promotes innovation is collaboration,â€ he says. “Groups such as WIT – Women in Technology – Amplify Oshkosh and the New North IT Alliance provide opportunities for networking and cross pollination that allows for new thoughts to emerge.
“We also have companies here who have a good understanding of IT as a partnership and not just the geeks who sit in the dark part of the office. So when you look at innovative companies like 4Imprint, J. J. Keller or Plexus, these companies are incorporating IT within their business processes.”
The Right Address
Kleman says in addition to its central location, Oshkosh’s enviable quality-of-life acts as an attractive force for relocating IT companies and top talent.
“We are also investing in amenities that employees desire such as a thriving downtown area with a desirable mix of housing opportunities mixed with a growing commercial base and a competed Riverwalk system for biking, walking and leisure,â€ Kleman says. “Oshkosh’s recreational opportunities and direct proximity the Fox River and Lake Winnebago system are also additional amenities that attract talent to the area.”
Ahmad, who moved to the area in the late 1980s, echoes that sentiment.
“We certainly can appreciate all the niceties that come from a small community like Oshkosh, such as having a good school district, having enough parks around. People are very approachable,â€ he says. “We have actually hired people who have moved here from California, and they have absolutely loved it.”