Mar 28

2016 Budget SURPLUS

Our 2016 budget audit results are in.


The 2016 fiscal year for the City of Manitowoc ended with over a half-million dollar SURPLUS.


Over the past few years, we have been working diligently on controlling our costs and getting our budget balanced. We have gone from budget deficits to budget surpluses throughout the 8 years I’ve been mayor.


Additionally, this surplus affirms that we are in compliance with our undesignated reserve fund policy of 15% (see photo for details).


What does this mean moving forward? We will not be building up a large “war chest” year after year. It means we will be able to control taxes without massive increases and invest these dollars back into roads, parks, or city services we provide without going further into debt or raising taxes.


This is clear and factual data which proves that the City of Manitowoc has been operating its budget very responsibly the past few years.


Vote on Tuesday, April 4th to re-elect someone who has a proven record of success with your tax dollars.

Mar 10


Experience was a main discussion at the last mayoral forum.
My opponent stated, “I am saying it is time for somebody with real experience and real government background to be in office.”
I couldn’t agree more.
There is only 1 candidate in this race who has real on-the-job experience and real local government background.
I served on the Common Council from 2005-2009. I was the Council President from 2007-2008 and served on the Finance Committee for four years and as the Chairman of the Personnel Committee for four years. My opponent stated during the forum that he would not be interested in serving on the Common Council.
I have served as your mayor from 2009-present. I have operated an organization with a $50 million dollar budget and 350 employees. I promised you in 2009 that I would reduce our debt, and I have, from $76 million to $50 million. I have overseen an economy that went from 15% unemployment in 2009 to under 5% today.
If I earn your vote for another term as mayor, you will have someone that has spent his entire life and career dedicated to improving the city that he loves. Someone who has reduced our debt, balanced our budget, and established meaningful relationships with local businesses.
25 days until Election Day. Can I count on your support?

Mar 09

The Future of Your City | Part 6

The Future of Your City | Part 6 of 9


Thank you for tuning in today.


The City of Manitowoc’s main priority under my administration is Economic Development. This includes working with current businesses, aggressively seeking grant dollars for growth throughout our community, looking for new business opportunities, and an open line of communication with City Hall for our businesses.


I think this is a turning point in the city for economic development and growth. I truly believe we have a bullish economy and we have many opportunities for growth. We’ve spent the past 100 years focused on Mirro and the Manitowoc Company – and solely on manufacturing. Now is a perfect opportunity to shift our focus to the many local businesses we have that are doing very well, and new industries, like health care.


Forefront Dermatology anticipates adding 300 jobs in Manitowoc over the next 5 years.


Skana Aluminum continues to do well and is planning major investments into their facility in the near future. This has been a huge success story since I was first elected in 2009. A few days after Anheuser Busch announced they were closing down, I met with the owner of Skana who wanted to purchase the old Koenig and Vits plant and start the rolling mill back up. Today, they have 150 employees (double what koenig and vits had) they start positions at a minimum of $15/hour.


Tramontana just purchased the old Orion manufacturing plant and will be announcing great news over the next few weeks.


R2H is building a facility in the Industrial Park at this very moment. They plan on creating 25 jobs.


Kaysun added 30 jobs throughout the last year.


Federal Mogul has already invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into their facilities and plans to continue that growth and add jobs.


Tender Reflections just opened in Manitowoc with 30 skilled nursing jobs.


Orion continues to have positive outlooks for growth and just announced 30 new jobs.


Broadwind Towers continues to receive major contracts for work, and just recently announced it has booked more than $250 million in tower orders so far this year, as the wind energy sector invests heavily in new projects.


Northern Labs has billboards all around the city looking for people to hire.


Kerry just announced this week that they have purchased the former Foster Needle facility and plan to expand and grow their business in Manitowoc.


When first elected, I made a conscious effort to visit as many local businesses as possible. I continue to do this with every opportunity I get. From this came the Annual Mayor’s Business Roundtable that typically gets 100 people/businesses in attendance. This is an opportunity for City Hall to come to you. I require each Department Head to attend so business leaders can speak directly to my staff.

In 2015 we created the Community Development Department (formerly Planning Department) and hired Nic Sparacio to lead our efforts on economic development for the city. If you talk to any business owner they will tell you that Nic is open to listening to their concerns and aggressively finds ways to help.


Throughout the years it has been my goal to find synergies amongst the various groups we have that deal with economic development. Most notably the Chamber, Progress Lakeshore, and the Manitowoc Area Visitor and Convention Bureau. These conversations continue and I look forward to making a concerted effort to join forces under one brand for our community.


The Mid-Cities Mall and former Elks Club site has great potential for growth and development. We are currently working on a site plan for the entire area which will be announced in 2017. My staff and I meet regularly with the owners of all these properties.


MPU water and electric rates have decreased since I was first elected in 2009. This is one of our greatest assets and a huge perk for businesses to locate here.


In 2013 we created a policy to allow land to be sold in the industrial park for free if a business locates there and creates X number of jobs. A few businesses have already taken advantage of this program.


The city has an excellent record of providing low interest revolving loan funds to businesses for growth. There are many businesses that have taken advantage of this already.


Finally, we have aggressively sought Federal and State grants over the past 8 years and we continue to look for additional areas to find grant funding to offset local costs. Just last year we received $2 million in Harbor Assistance dollars for the Carferry dock replacement. $1 million EPA revolving loan fund grant. $250,000 for the Schuette Building. $113,000 from WEDC for Mirro assessment work. $800,000 in EPA assessment grants. $700,000 in principal forgiveness for upgrades to the Wastewater Treatment Facility, and $3 million for sheetwall in the Manitowoc River.


Economic Development is our top priority and these are just a few examples of businesses that are investing in Manitowoc, and areas that local government is assisting.


Until next week, Thank you.




Mar 08

Kerry/Red Arrow Plans to Invest in Manitowoc

March 8th, 2017
Announcement from: Kerry/Red Arrow and Mayor Justin M. Nickels
Kerry plans to open new, state-of-the-art Manitowoc production facility
Manitowoc, WI – Kerry announces the intent to purchase, expand, and renovate a new cutting-edge production facility in Manitowoc. The new facility will produce a variety of liquid smoke products used by customers to flavor familiar products such as hot dogs, lunch meats and hams and feature expanded office and meeting space.
“Kerry’s decision to invest in and strengthen its presence in Manitowoc is a testament to the strength of our community’s workforce and our business-friendly approach,” said Justin Nickels, Mayor of the City of Manitowoc.”
Kerry is a world leader in taste and nutrition with 24,000 employees operating in 28 countries worldwide. Kerry’s leading-edge research in market and consumer behavior and unparalleled expertise in the science of taste allows them to deliver products that delight and nourish consumers in the beverage, food and pharmaceutical industries.
Kerry acquired four Manitowoc, WI buildings in 2015 as part of the Red Arrow Products LLC. acquisition. The new facility, the former Foster Needle building on Expo drive, will deliver 40,000 square feet and bring three of the four buildings into one location.
“Smoke is an important part of Kerry’s future and we’re excited to be investing in the growth of this technology in the Manitowoc community,” said Ray Callahan, VP Operations, Kerry. “Kerry is proud to have partnered with Mayor Nickels and his administration and business leaders to make this project possible, grow our presence in the community and provide new job opportunities.”.
About Kerry:
Kerry provides the largest, most innovative portfolio of Taste & Nutrition Systems and Functional Ingredients & Actives for the global food, beverage and pharmaceutical industries.

Kerry is committed to supporting our Manitowoc colleagues and the community in which they live. Kerry offers comprehensive benefits, access to Wellness initiatives, many company perks and more. Our community giving policy includes supporting local and national charitable organizations focused on nutrition, family and wellness.

Mar 07

Absentee Ballot Voting Information

If you are unable to vote in person for the election, please consider filling out an absentee ballot request.

You can find information on this here: 

Mar 03

The Future of Your City | Part 5

The Future of Your City | Part 5 of 9


Today I would like to address the drug problem in our community and what we are doing to address it.


There is no doubt that the drug problem has become more visible over the past few years. Sadly this issue is much larger than just the City of Manitowoc.


Manitowoc County focuses on this issue in collaboration with each municipality. The drug issue isn’t just Manitowoc’s problem or Two Rivers’ problem. Drug deals don’t stop at the municipality line. Therefore, a collaborative effort is required. Manitowoc County Metro has 6.5 full-time officers dedicated to this issue. 2 from the City of Manitowoc, 1 from Two Rivers, and 3.5 from Manitowoc County.


Manitowoc County takes a hard stance on this issue. My goal is to make Manitowoc known to all drug dealers as a place that they do not want to do business. Recently, drug overdoses have been treated as reckless homicide and each death is investigated as to where the individual got their drugs from. Drug busts have also seen much larger cash bail requirements (anywhere between $5,000 – $50,000), which drug dealers do not want to deal with. Our new District Attorney is doing an excellent job of making this a priority and cracking down on it and our detectives and law enforcement personnel know this is a major issue for our community. Just last week we had 3 major drug busts in 24 hours because of the diligence of metro drug, our detective bureau, and our officers.


The City of Manitowoc also has 2 K-9 dogs that are trained to detect drugs. The K-9 unit has been broadly supported by the community and we now have over $100,000 in the Lakeshore Community Foundation for this cause. The K-9’s also get into our schools to show our young kids that we take this issue seriously. Education is key. Our local law enforcement does an excellent job of getting out into the community, into schools, and at events. You’ll see our K-9’s out everywhere and there’s a purpose for that. We are being proactive, rather than reactive.



The City of Manitowoc Police Department is a drug drop off location for any unneeded or unused drugs. 2016 will see the highest amount of drugs that were dropped off and the State of Wisconsin is #2 in total drop off’s in the nation, which shows us that people are well aware of the fact they can drop off their unused drugs and that we are making a good effort to get these drugs out of the hands of individuals who want them.


In 2016 we received a Heroin Grant of $12,500 to specifically provide dollars for overtime to deal specifically with heroin related cases. We expect this same grant in 2017 and we also will receive a similar grant to deal with meth, which we are also starting to see an increase of. In 2016 I also shifted an officer to the Metro Drug unit to provide even more assistance for their efforts.


We need to clean up our neighborhoods. This may sound like a small thing, but I believe it will have an impact on drug use in our community. One of our positives is that we have a low cost of living here. For drug dealers, that’s their positive also. We need to go after slum-lords and we need to deal with blight, which I have budgeted $250,000 in 2017 to deal with.


This is a major issue, but I am confident that our law enforcement and courts are cracking down on drug dealers and cleaning up our community. Please contact our law enforcement agencies if you suspect drug use in your neighborhood. We need your help to tackle this issue.


We are 4 weeks away from the election.


I want to pledge to you the voter, and to my opponent Mr. Nelson, that I will keep this campaign civil and focused on the issues facing our community. I will challenge Mr. Nelson on his platform and on his statements, but only to provide facts for the voters. However, neither myself nor my campaign will tolerate any personal attacks on my opponent or his family, or false claims or offensive behavior. We do not need federal politics and elections in Manitowoc.


I assure you there will be no “March Surprises” from my campaign or my supporters. I am focused on getting my message to the voters and I will focus on my plans for our community over the next 4 years to earn your vote. I will work tirelessly these next 4 weeks to hopefully prove that I am the better candidate.


If I am fortunate enough to earn your vote on April 4th, I will be delighted to work with Mr. Nelson to continue making this a great community. If I lose, I will support the new mayor and I will encourage all of my supporters to do so also.


I hope to have the opportunity to speak to all of you over the next 4 weeks to share my vision and my plans for our community. Visit my campaign website,, to learn more and to see when the campaign headquarters is open. Please stop down and chat with me any time.


Until next week, Thank you.


Mar 02

Downtown Parking Plan Facts

Downtown Parking Plan Facts
I need to address a few comments made by my opponent that are false. I am providing this information so you can read comments made by both candidates with factual data versus random comments. It’s lengthy, but there is a lot of information. I will try to keep my personal opinions to a minimum and focus on the facts.
My opponent claims that “The recent parking garage plan is an additional $60k and is the third parking plan in the last 10-15 years. We need to quit doing parking plans and either take action on them or quit doing them.” Further, he states that “You (if you pay property taxes) have paid literally 100’s of thousands of dollars on plans over the past few years.” Additionally, my opponent states: “Are you ready to pay to park downtown and add $12 Million new taxes? Vote for Nickels and you vote for $12 Million in new taxes. Vote for Barry Nelson and save $12 Million dollars.”
A majority of these statements are false.
As you can see from the picture, the last parking plans that were completed by the City were in 1985 and 1992. There has not been a parking study done since then. I would argue that a lot has changed in downtown over the past quarter century to warrant a new look at our parking. We have had many internal and some public discussions on parking over the past 10-15 years, yes. However, over the past 25 years we have not taken a comprehensive look at our parking situation, but we feel the right time is now, as we are seeing increased employment growth, new bicycle and pedestrian measures being implemented, increased residential population downtown, and increased traffic during the SS Badger season – all of which have significantly changed since 1992.
The cost for the study will be $15,000-$30,000, not $60,000. I do not know where my opponent got that number from, but from all the firms that we have talked to (who specialize in this), that is the number we are using. You can view the entire public discussion on this item here:
There also is no factual data to state that you have paid “100’s of thousands of dollars on plans the past few years.” The largest plan we commissioned over the past 10 years has been our Comprehensive Plan, which is required by State law (and to be updated every 10 years). Certain criteria needed to be met in the plan and it did not address downtown parking. This plan specifically states: “In 2007, the City began the effort to prepare this Comprehensive Plan. This Plan will provide consistent direction for the City as it addresses growth and change, preservation, and redevelopment through 2030.” We have utilized many aspects of this plan, but remember, when this plan was finally adopted in 2009 we also saw the most difficult economic times in decades in our community. Some projects were pushed back, yes. However, this is a long-range plan to focus on certain areas of the city – many of which are in my 22-point plan – thanks to this plan and others.
Another plan, the Downtown and River corridor plan did not address parking and was partially funded by other means. I also utilized this plan to prepare my 22-point plan (specifically bicycle and pedestrian safety measures).
Finally, I have never stated, nor has anyone from the city ever stated, that the city will give free parking, or structures, to businesses. We have always talked about a public-private partnership to fund parking (as you can clearly see in the video link from above). It may be long-term leases, it may be each party helping fund. We won’t know that until we get this study done. You will not see $12 million in new taxes under my proposals. And yes, we will be utilizing information from other plans we have commissioned in the past for this downtown parking plan – as we always do – to save costs to the taxpayer.
My plans for downtown parking are clear and transparent. This is clearly the discussion we need to have to ensure downtown businesses have adequate parking for their patrons and their staff. I don’t see this investment as any different than building roads and infrastructure in our industrial park for business growth. Downtown has different needs than an industrial park, and if we want to see business growth there, we need to address parking.
If you have any questions, please contact me.

Feb 27

The Future of Your City | Part 4

The Future of Your City

Part 4 of 9


Thank you for tuning in today.


The past few weeks I’ve talked about my past experiences and what we have accomplished the last 8 years in office.


Today I would like to focus on the future because that’s really what this election is about.


As of right now, less than 6 weeks from Election Day, I am the only candidate that has put forward a detailed plan for the next 4 years in office.


The plan focuses on 22 areas throughout the city that I believe we need to focus on, and invest in, between now and 2022. The plan breaks down those 22 points into 3 categories. Economic Development, Infrastructure and Parks, and Education and Culture.


Those areas include; Downtown Manitowoc, the Mid-City Mall and former Elks Club Property, a long-term development plan for the expo grounds now that Meijer is building there, the peninsula off of N. 10th Street, which is currently owned by Canadian National Rail, the Farmer’s Market and its parking lot, the entrance to our port on both sides, the coal pile and the Baymont Hotel properties for increased value and use, the vacant piece of land next to Burger Boat Company along our commercial river, the Industrial Park, the Waldo Boulevard corridor from I-43 to Rapids Road for development, the calumet avenue corridor, neighborhood redevelopment programs, $22 million on infrastructure and roads, Red Arrow Park, Lincoln Park and the Zoo, the Manitowoc Marina, Lower Henry Schuette Park trails and the ice age national scenic trails along it, the Wisconsin Maritime Museum and the National Marine Sanctuary, Silver Lake College, UW-Manitowoc, the Rahr-West Art Museum, and our Manitowoc Public School District.


I believe if we focus on these areas; to improve them, expand them, or invest in them, will have huge dividends that will pay off for our community as a whole.


As we look to the future and what we want our community to become, I believe we are well poised for excellent opportunities today. We’ve spent the past 8 years bringing our budget in line, working ourselves out of some of the most difficult economic times we’ve seen in decades, and we’ve set ourselves up to be able to invest in our community responsibly. We’ve also spent the past 100 years focused on Mirro and the Manitowoc Company. We now have a plethora of opportunities to focus on the hundreds of small to large businesses that are thriving in our community and want to continue their growth here.


Economic Development is by far the most important area right now. However, we can’t just chase manufacture jobs like we are used to. We must expand our capabilities as a community and also focus on growing industries, like health care. This is why education is a key component to my plan. We need to train our kids for the jobs we want to attract to our community, not just the jobs we have here today. Our school district, UW-Manitowoc, Silver Lake College, Lakeshore Technical College, and our excellent Library are all excited for these new opportunities and have already began working together to accomplish many of these goals.


Downtown is also important to me. I believe that a robust downtown is a major component to attracting younger generations. Our two areas of focus will be on increasing the amount of people that live and work downtown. If we increase those areas, we will start to see more events downtown, businesses opening downtown, the clipper city co-op investing in downtown, bicycle and pedestrian safety measures added downtown, and we will have a more vibrant city because of it.


Infrastructure is also important for economic development, which is why I am calling for $22 million dollars in investments in infrastructure and roads over the next 4 years. This may sound like a staggering amount, but even with that investment we will still lower our city debt by $10 million over that same time period in my plan.


Parks, recreation, the arts, culture, and a sense of community are all also important to attract businesses and people to live here. We are fortunate to have the Wisconsin Maritime Museum, the Rahr-West Art Musuem, the Capitol Civic Centre, our Zoo, beaches, our Marina, and our trails. We need to continue investing in public art, public education, and culture.


The budgets I’ve presented in the past began building upon these values I am sharing with you today; from getting our budget balanced, reducing our debt, investing in public murals like the one at Red Arrow Park, cleaning up our beaches, investing in the Lincoln Park Zoo, putting $250,000 into a neighborhood blight program, demolishing the mid-city mall and now Mirro, and putting money forward on smaller investments downtown like the bike racks, ice skating rink, and pedestrian safety signs and soon-to-be bike sharrows for safe bicycling downtown.


If I am fortunate enough to earn your vote on April 4th, I will continue to prioritize the areas in our community that will help us grow economically, help clean up our neighborhoods, focus on our children, and make us a clean, safe, and welcoming community for our residents, visitors, and businesses that want to move here.


Until next week, Thank you.

Feb 23

Business Update: Forefront Dermatology

This week’s business spotlight is Forefront Dermatology.
“If not for Mayor Justin Nickels and his leadership back in 2009 and beyond, Forefront Dermatology would have expanded in a different community. He was instrumental in convincing us that Manitowoc was the best business decision we could make.” – Dr. Kenneth Katz, President and Founder of Forefront Dermatology
Forefront Dermatology is an amazing story for the City of Manitowoc, especially for the revitalization of downtown.
In the mid-2000’s this company (then known as Dermatology Associates) had a handful of employees in downtown and opened a single clinic on the west side of the city.
Today, thanks to Dr. Katz’s vision and determination, they have 300-plus employees in Downtown Manitowoc alone (over a thousand company-wide throughout their clinics across the country) and have increased their overall downtown payroll from basically nothing in the mid-2000’s to over $20 million dollars in 2016. In 2016 alone, they added over 100 downtown jobs and grew their salaries by roughly $8.4 million (a 65% increase). The jobs created range from entry level Contact Center representatives, to specialized Dermatopathologists, to middle and senior level management.
Forefront also has increased its real estate downtown going from 36,090 square feet in 2015 to 71,590 square feet in 2016.
The company plans to continue this growth and they are committed to Downtown Manitowoc. They plan to see equivalent growth in employees in 2017 as they had in 2016. And, they have no plans to stop in the foreseeable future.
According to Dr. Katz; “Mayor Nickels meets with me regularly to help think of ways the city can assist our business in continued growth in Manitowoc instead of elsewhere. He and his staff helped us to work with Lakeshore Technical College for training our employees, we worked on a public/private partnership to add 50 parking stalls downtown while removing a blighted building, and our company is excited that Downtown Manitowoc will be a focus of Mayor Nickels and his administration over the next few years, especially to figure out a long-term parking solution so we can continue to expand in Downtown Manitowoc.”
Next week there will be a major announcement from one of our local businesses and myself. Tune in for more great news from Manitowoc!

Feb 17

The Future of Your City | Part 3



The Future of Your City | Part 3 of 9


Thank you for tuning in today.


The past few weeks my opponent has been arguing that experience is necessary to adequately serve as your mayor.


I couldn’t agree with him more.


The question you as the voter should be asking yourself, however, is what experience is relevant to accomplish that.


Don’t get me wrong; I will be the first person to thank Mr. Nelson for his military background. He is correct when he says that is an experience he and I don’t share. In fact, I personally attended his retirement ceremony at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum when he moved to Manitowoc a few years ago. I didn’t know who he was, but I was invited to attend a military retirement ceremony and I was honored to attend on behalf of the citizens of Manitowoc to thank him for his service.


However, he argues that working with the federal government and at the pentagon, along with being a former downtown retail business owner qualifies him to be the CEO of a 50 million dollar budget, with 350 employees, and $50 million dollars in debt, while arguing that I don’t have the experience he has that is necessary to be mayor.


I know I sometimes tout the fact that I was a fresh-faced kid in high school when I was first elected to the Common Council, but I say that because serving on the Common Council is an excellent qualifier to running for Mayor. I understand and appreciate the role and responsibilities the Common Council has – because I was one of them for 4 years.


I’ve prepared, presented and publicly argued for 8 city budgets as Mayor. I’ve operated this organization for 8 years and brought us out of near bankruptcy, implemented a LEAN approach to departments, brought increased transparency to city hall, made very difficult decisions sometimes on a 5-5 vote of the Common Council, casting the tie breaking vote for the MPU loan, donor-distressed TIF districts, and much more – sometimes that weren’t popular decisions amongst the citizens or council, but necessary ones and ones that have proven to bring our city out of debt and more responsible with your tax dollar. And I understand I didn’t do this alone. We have a great staff and a cooperative Common Council.


We have set a very responsible course for this city and now, more than ever, we need someone qualified to serve as the CEO of the City of Manitowoc. It’s taken this long to get us to a position of some exciting developments and opportunities. This is what I have been working on for eight years, for twelve years, actually and I am asking that you let me continue this work. I promise you that one day 1 of the new mayor’s term, you will have a qualified individual to lead us over the next 4 years if I am fortunate enough to earn your vote on April 4th.


I also reject the notion that we are a dying little city, as my opponent stated in his last radio program.


Tell that to Kaysun, Federal Mogul, Jagemann Stamping and Plating, Americollect, Forefront Dermatology, Skana Aluminum, Tramontina, Briess Malting, Orion, R2H, Northern Labs, Burger Boat, Dowco, or even Downtown, Jenn’s Java, Modern by Megean, The Hearty Olive, Aspire, the Wild Iris, Beernstens, Stockpile games, and many, many more.

They all believe their investment will pay off for years to come. All of those businesses have done something the past few years to improve their business, add on, or create more jobs.


We aren’t a dying little city and we should reject that notion from whoever says it.

Do we have our challenges, absolutely. But this city has never given up in tough times. North, south, east and west…even polish hill, we’ve always faced our challenges with strong leadership, business leaders who come together, and citizens who demand strong leadership from their Mayor and Common Council.


Now is the time to shape our future. I talk a lot about revitalizing downtown because I believe we have a very strong and successful future there. I talk a lot about our river and lakefront because our future is vested in them. I talk a lot about cleaning up our neighborhoods and parks because that is what makes us unique and positions us for a robust future.


This city is not dying. But we need to make sure we elect people who have a vision for our future, who have proven records and leadership, and who will fight for you every day they serve you.


I have worked hard for you and we have grown together. We have accomplished much and the future looks even brighter. Good things are happening. Sure, bad things still happen, too, but we have learned to take these in stride and not lose our vision or passion for our home. You have elected me four times, twice as your mayor and I have invested my entire life in this community. I ask that we continue our journey together. This is your home. This is my home. I am honored to lead our city forward and I hope I have earned your trust, your support, and your commitment to a better future by voting for me for 4 more years on April 4th.


Please don’t forget to vote in Tuesday’s primary election!


Until next week, Thank you.

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