From “‘Light Up the Fox’ project aims to highlight Appleton history.” — A nonprofit organization plans to harness the same magical power that paper manufacturer H.J. Rogers captured with his hydroelectric plant in 1882 when it erects lighted sculptures along the Fox River.

“Light Up the Fox” is working to make the sparkling illuminated displays a reality at Atlas Mill, Vulcan Park and the Paper Discovery Center next year.

“We want to point out Appleton has this amazing early history of hydroelectric power with Hearthstone, the first electrically lit hotel and streetcar,” said Keith Powell, a volunteer with the new group.

The organization has attained $7,600 of its $11,000 fundraising goal. Plans call for the switch to flip in December 2013, said Barb Sauer, the group’s president.

The main focus of the displays is on history and the community, Sauer said. The group has not decided whether to use the lights during the holidays.

“We want to make it not only a light celebration, but shedding light on the Fox River and its heritage,” Sauer said. “We want to intersperse some celebrations throughout the whole year and are thinking about a night bike ride in the summer.”

The group will hold a kickoff event on New Year’s Eve. It will include a candle procession across the river, Sauer said.

Mike Cattelino, a volunteer with the group and associate dean of manufacturing and agriculture technologies at Fox Valley Technical College, is already working with students to design displays that will be synchronized to music. The lights display has drawn inspiration from the Green Bay Botanical Gardens in and Celebration of Lights at Menominee Park in Oshkosh.

“The technology involved is really an industrial-based control system, inputs and outputs, turning lights on and off, and making them dim and sparkle in ways they’re not programmed to do,” Cattelino said. “The electrical consumption is amazing low with high-efficiency, LED lights.”

The project got a boost this fall with a $5,000 matching donation from Faith Technologies, a Menasha-based electrical contractor. Matt Sabee, an Appleton service manager with Faith, led the company’s partnership with the nonprofit.

“We’d like to get students get involved right away when it comes to programming the lights to music, and making the controllers with relays,” Sabee said. “Then down the road we’ll roll in the historical educational with facts about the river, what’s it’s done to help our area, and boost manufacturing.”

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers also donated $2,500 to the campaign this year. Sabee said the group is looking for more volunteers to help organize, market and create the displays. By waiting until after the holiday, the group hopes to save money on light supplies. Sauer said she’s eager to organize more volunteers and get programs planned for 2013.

“Every time I mention our plan to someone in the community there’s such an excited response. We’re seeing a lot of energy behind it already,” Sauer said. “It’s all about doing good for the community, having fun and celebrating the river.”


Record numbers of Wisconsin technical college graduates are entering a tight labor market, but job placement remains very strong. The Wisconsin Technical College System’s new Graduate Follow-up Report indicates that 86 percent of last year’s technical college graduates in the labor force were employed within six months of graduation.

“It’s extremely encouraging to see most of our graduates finding employment during these tough economic times,” said Dan Clancy, president of the Wisconsin Technical College System. The report dispels the notion that all college graduates are struggling to find jobs. “Technical colleges work with their advisory committees to ensure the skills and knowledge students learn in the classroom translate to immediate success in today’s workforce,” added Clancy.

“The high placement rates for technical college graduates speaks to the value of our colleges for our communities,” said Stan Davis, Wisconsin Technical College System Board president. “Students in the technical colleges are becoming more resistant to changing economic conditions, which strengthens our state’s overall economy,” Davis added.

The Graduate Follow-up Report by Wisconsin’s Technical Colleges also shows salaries remaining strong, with the median salary for new associate degree graduates holding steady at $36,000. The median salary for all graduates is $31,200. The study also found 97 percent of respondents said they were satisfied or very satisfied with the education they received from their local technical college.  Joshua Graham, an accounting student at Northcentral Technical College in Wausau, noted “I already did the four-year university thing, I have a degree in economics. Looking into technical colleges, I found they had smaller class sizes, but what I really liked was the real-world experience that the teachers brought [into the classroom].”

The Graduate Follow-up Report was sent to 23,659 graduates and had a 71 percent response rate. It examines employment status, earnings, and other factors approximately six months after graduation. The report is available at

The Wisconsin Technical College System has 16 technical college districts throughout Wisconsin, which offer more than 300 programs awarding two-year associate degrees, one- and two-year technical diplomas and short-term technical diplomas. In addition, the System is the major provider of customized training and technical assistance to Wisconsin’s business and industry community. More than half of all adults in Wisconsin have accessed the technical colleges for education and training. Find more about educational programs at

Polishing Up Labor Day

“Dirty Jobs” host Mike Rowe says it all in the post about the people who fill the jobs necessary to continue civilized life as we know it.

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As we celebrate Earth Day as a nation, it’s important to note that some of the nation’s emerging professions with the most growth potential are energy-related and are becoming more prevalent in Wisconsin. In order to help fill the demand for jobs in alternative energy and related “green industry” fields, several Wisconsin Technical Colleges are preparing students for work in this high-growth industry. Among the available programs are Biorefinery Technician, Renewable Electricity Technician and Renewable Thermal Energy Technician, available at Mid-State Technical College; Wind Energy Technician, available at Lakeshore Technical College.
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The Center on Wisconsin Strategy (COWS) recently published a report about the “greening” of Wisconsin’s economy.

The organization asks, “How can Wisconsin best pursue the greener and more equitable promise of the clean energy economy?  A new report from COWS looks at how the state can use American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) dollars and a first-rate technical college system to ensure that the emerging green economy benefits Wisconsin’s working families.”

The report includes:

  • What is a green job?
  • Greening Wisconsin’s manufacturing base
  • Funding a green recovery
  • Green training at Wisconsin’s technical colleges
  • Recommendations for green workforce development
  • Occupations in selected clean energy sectors

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