Jorge Hidalgo from Wilde East Towne Honda won the 2019 Community Business Leader Award, as announced during the Sun Prairie Chamber of Commerce’s Business Appreciation Luncheon on Thursday, Nov. 7 at the Hilton Garden Inn-Sun Prairie.
Hidalgo has given support to the Colonial Club, the Sun Prairie Public Library and the Sun Prairie Media Center in addition to serving as board chair of the Sun Prairie Chamber of Commerce.
“From the moment I met him, I knew he was going to be a fabulous addition to our Sun Prairie community,” Hidalgo’s nominator wrote. “His involvement with Career Education and our students has been top notch.”
One of Hidalgo’s most active roles has been with the Sun Prairie Business and Education Partnership and in the Apprenticeship program through Sun Prairie High School. This year, Wilde hired three SPHS youth apprentices.
“Due to his belief in kids,” the nominator wrote of Hidalgo, “Sun Prairie has one of the few nationally certified programs right here in Dane County.”
“I’m humbled by the honor,” Hidalgo said. “I didn’t know how you knew I was going to be here.”
“We have people,” quipped Smith.
“That’s really impressive because it’s a complete surprise,” Hidalgo replied to the audience of about 60 in attendance. “Somebody asked me ‘hey, who’s getting the award this year?’ and I said, ‘I don’t know — I heard about three or four different names at the last meeting I attended’ but I wasn’t sure.
“But I am truly honored. We live in an outstanding community. We’re really fortunate. And what makes it so special is all of us caring about the community and giving back,” Hidalgo said. “And one of the things I’d like to say to my fellow business leaders is, bottom line, we provide a lot of leadership within our own businesses and I always ask myself ‘what can I do to help out my community?’ And I hope you do the same because we want a great community and that takes all of us to make it happen — so let’s keep on going. Thank you.”
City of Sun Prairie Economic Development Director Neil Stechschulte praised the award winner.
“Jorge, congratulations again. I’ve always been impressed with the operation over there. Nancy [Everson has] roped us in with the GRIT awards and other things going on and I’ve always been impressed by the staff that you have over there. And I think that largely comes from the leadership at the top. So congratulations — very much well deserved,” Stechschulte said.
Stechschulte, along with City Planner Sarah Sauer, reviewed some of the development and statistics associated with the City of Sun Prairie during the past year. One of the areas where Sun Prairie fell from number one? Unemployment. The city is now running a close second to the City of Madison and the City of Fitchburg, tied for the top spot in state unemployment, with Sun Prairie finishing just behind them.
“It’s a good sign that the economy’s healthy. It’s great [but it] makes it a little interesting when we’re trying to attract new businesses to town. If somebody comes in and says, ‘Hey, we want to bring 1,000 new jobs to town’, we’re like, ‘well good, we hope you’re bringing them with, because we don’t have folks just sitting around waiting.’ It’s always an interesting challenge [to have low unemployment], but it is a great problem to have,” Stechschulte said.
Among the noteworthy items:
• McGovern’s property. The city has learned there is a pending purchase for the McGovern’s Club site at the corner of Main and Bird streets, as well as the tourist cabins located to the north. The longtime bar and grill closed abruptly last year, following the sale of McGovern’s Motel.
Stechschulte said the city has not seen a development plan or a permit application for the property yet. Both the Motel and McGovern’s Club are located in a redevelopment area and within a federal Enterprise Zone that encourages investment in exchange for federal tax credits.
• Meijer Foods. Sauer showed renderings of what a potential Meijer Foods store might look like on the Schneider property along Thompson Road.
“Now we have, let’s see — the attachment, the platting, the land division, the zoning, you know, so we have a few other hurdles that still need to be done on that one,” Stechschulte said.
“It’s a full time employment act for Sarah and the other planning staff we have. It’s going to be a big project and it’s going to be on a fast, tight schedule,” Stechschulte said. “So we’re looking to have some more of those things coming up very, very shortly.”
• Apartment occupancy. Sauer said she anticipates the Gorman Main Street Apartments project will have occupancy late this year or early 2020. Half of the Catalyst on Main is also available for rent, but no commercial tenants have leased space in the first floor spaces, according to Stechschulte.
• Available office space. Stechschulte said the city has more than 100,000 sq. ft. of office space available, but that most of it is on the QBE Campus at 1 General Drive on the city’s west side. Even with the addition of Continental Mapping to the 100 Building on the campus earlier this year, QBE still has roughly 75,000 sq. ft. of office space available on the campus.
Stechschulte and Sauer concluded the Business Appreciation Lunch by playing “Buy or Sell.” Using a format similar to Jim Cramer’s “Mad Money” on CNBC, Stechschulte asked a development-related question then had the audience hold up whether they would “buy” or “sell.”
One example: “Space in the Sun Prairie Business Park is more likely to be sold to one large project versus several smaller companies.” Most people raised their “buy” cards on that, because Stechschulte said the city was a finalist for the Amazon project that eventually went to Beloit because the Business Park did not have a large enough tract of land.
Annual meeting date set
Sun Prairie Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ann Smith said the chamber’s annual meeting will take place on Jan. 30, 2020, with more details to be announced. The next chamber event will be the Sun Prairie Community Expo, which will take place on Nov. 21 at the Hilton Garden Inn, located at 1220 S. Grand Ave.