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Sheboygan airport gears up to welcome international traffic

Posted at 7:00 AM, Sep 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-24 11:43:17-04

A small local airport is about to get a U.S. Customs facility that will allow aircraft to fly in direct from overseas. While Sheboygan may not seem like a hot, global destination, officials are about to break ground on the $4.2 million facility that should be operational by next summer.

“That's going to open up our airwaves for international traffic,” said Greg Schnell, Sheboygan County’s transportation director. “So, if you look at the ramp out here, this is going to be filled with jets from all over the world.”

Not all the time. Schnell is referring to next fall’s Ryder Cup. The global golf event is coming to Whistling Straits in Sheboygan County. Players, coaches and fans will be able to fly directly from Europe into Sheboygan. “We're looking forward to having those people come to our airport. Come to our event and to showcase Sheboygan County,” Schnell said.

But hosting major golf events every several years is hardly enough to justify a full-time customs operation. It’s more than that. Kohler Company has been pushing for years to get a facility, as it has business interests across the world. It means so much to Kohler that the company agreed to pay to staff the facility in the early going.

In his application to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, then-Gov. Scott Walker also cited Sargento, Bemis Manufacturing, Johnsonville and Acuity Insurance as major companies that would benefit from having a customs operation in the county.

The plan is to break ground late this year, with the facility opening in June 2020. Schnell hopes long term, the investment will pay off for all of the county, which can make money off fuel fees it charges planes to fill up.

“It's one of those theories and thought processes, build it and they will come. That's what we want to generate with our airport. We have a beautiful infrastructure, we're taking care of it, and we want this to be the face of the airport to come in and say we can provide those services.”