NWTC Opens Sister Bay Center

Representatives from the Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC) and Nicolet National Bank cut the ribbon on the new Learning and Innovation Center May 7 before a crowd of around 100 people on a sunny spring day.

While the center has been open and offering workshops since April, aspiring students and lifelong learners can enroll in courses counting toward degrees beginning in June.

“The purpose of the center has coalesced on two priorities,” said Jan Scoville, dean of regional learning for NWTC. “Supporting existing business and new business startups and contributing to community engagement and lifelong learning.”

The hallmark of the new center is its commercial kitchen, which three processors are already using for their products. Commercial kitchens are one of the largest expenses for new restaurants. This facility will allow producers to increase production with a significantly lower overhead.

Three producers are already using the commercial kitchen in the new facility. Photo by Len Villano.

“We started out with this focusing on a kitchen incubator,” said Dr. Jeff Rafn, president of NWTC. “We had an open house and we had people come in and tell us what they wanted in a center like this. One of the top items was a place to learn not only how to bake and cook and sell those products, but how to do that as an entrepreneur.”

The center will offer business and economics courses in addition to English composition, medical terminology and food service and preparation. Many courses are offered by video conference. There are also community education classes and small business workshops.

“I’m so happy the discussion about economic development has changed and it’s less about creating jobs and more about attracting people and giving them the right skills to do the right things to help make them prosperous,” said Bob Atwell, chairman and CEO of Nicolet National Bank.

When Nicolet moved its banking facility across the street after it merged with Baylake Bank, the company gave NWTC the building that would become the Learning and Innovation Center.

“We’re here because we’re drop dead serious about being a help to the community and we know education is a key thing,” Atwell said.

“This was an opportunity to expand the economic development in our community,” said Liberty Grove chairman John Lowry. “The ball game is now in our park and we must do everything we can going forward to utilize this facility.”

Liberty Grove has long sought better access to NWTC’s facilities. The technical college is largely supported by property tax dollars and Liberty Grove contributes the most of Door County’s 19 municipalities despite being one of the furthest away from the facility in Sturgeon Bay.

For more information on the courses offered this summer and fall, visit

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