Working in Elkhorn at Gateway Technical College South Building, (drop by anytime for business help or networking information) and driving home south to my family near Geneva Lake, I sometimes check on my other family—the growing and new businesses of Walworth County.
You’d be surprised what you can learn about what’s hot and what’s not in our area’s manufacturing, industrial and retail base.
Let’s make it a late night after a conference on student workforce employment at the high school like we recently had on the new Inspire online pipeline between students, educators and business, or the frequent business networking events or area regional development meetings my Walworth County Economic Development organization sponsors, such as last month’s Biz Expo and Job Fair.
Pulling out of Gateway, for example, I’ll cross the tracks of the Wisconsin Southern Railroad Branch that connects Elkhorn, Delavan and Darien and ties to the WSRR mainline between Chicago and Janesville. A quick glance to the right shows three economic indicators: drums and packages on a platform awaiting freight pickup, tractor trailers on the busy Interstate 43 heading in both directions with food, industrial products and consumer goods for Milwaukee, Beloit and the Midwest, and even a load of plywood dropped off at a local wood products plant along a spur off the branch line.
Curving along the spur and roads of the Elkhorn Industrial Parks I note trucks going in and out with loads of supplies and completed products. Long-term park residents expanding their facilities, or a ready-to-go generic distribution facility vacant the month before, yet now having the first pallets of production machinery and front office furniture arriving, or parked trailers filling with outflow.
It can be a little tougher to see in the dark skies as second shift winds down for the start of third shift, but a roadside “sandwich board” sign advertises for a daytime white collar graphic designer or a blue collar night shift manufacturing line worker.
But most of all I see the cars. A glance at the parking lots and a look back at my car clock tells me a lot about business health. Are there cars in the lot for a third shift? Are the second shift pickups a newer model? Is the visitor lot and executive area showing a dinnertime planning session with prospects?
Leaving the park and driving past the farm fields and toward the residential and tourist areas of the county for home, I feel authentic optimism for continued economic growth and success for our county. Sure beats the shuttered plant or one overnight security guard’s car so common only a decade ago.
I’m also pleased to report that soon to be announced are several exiting industrial developments, a new building for a facility in the Elkhorn business park, an expansion that will bring 80 jobs to East Troy, and a possible expansion in Whitewater.
By Derek D’Auria, Executive Director, WCEDA
Published with permission from The Beacon & Good Humour, May 5, 2017.