Next month marks the 12th year for the Walworth County Economic Development Alliance (WCEDA), chartered to create jobs and encourage private sector investment in our communities.
Being a builder of relationships is the most important task for an economic developer. One of the best indicators of success in this line of work is getting a call from a business leader considering an expansion or seeking help for a major challenge. The way we stay top of mind among our business community is through personal visits and the value that we bring to them. I am happy to report that I had over 225 meetings this past year with businesses, community organizations, and economic development partners to discuss challenges and opportunities. This information was used to focus our areas of work, which revolved around business intelligence, community development, workforce development, and retention and expansion services.
Business advice and strategic planning are key factors in increased revenues and profitability. That is the reason we put a greater effort into the development of a local network of business mentors and events that spotlighted vital information around key topics such as healthcare, fraud and available resources. On the community development front, our downtown revitalization efforts efforts are seeing positive progress.
Knowing that industry, tourism and agriculture continue to be the driver industries that feed the rest, we formed advisory and focus groups, which we believe will lead to productive support mechanisms for continued growth.
I look forward to growing existing relationships and establishing new ones to leverage our assets, facilitate business expansion, and improve the quality of life for all in Walworth County.
We have a number of success stories to tell, like our work with frozen food processor Birdseye to expand their facility in our county. WCEDA assisted Birdseye in obtaining a $1.3 million forgivable loan. That loan in turn made it possible for Birdseye to secure a $40 million expansion resulting in 127 new jobs over a three-year period.
Our next success story may have already started earlier this month with our informational meeting marking the start of our new Inspire program, an online talent pipeline linking county students at every level with employers in search of a more stable workforce. The program has enjoyed pilot success in the Milwaukee area and will be in full swing in Walworth County by the start of the coming school year. Students will have targeted access to internships, shadowing and employment, and employers will help reduce the flight of qualified workers out of state.
What about your next success story? As an employee, an educator, a business owner or manager, hat success could well start with contacting WCEDA. I and my staff will be pleased to offer you a number of ways and contacts to get you on the path to greater economic success. Feel free to contact us at www.WalworthBusiness.com or phoning 262-741-8527.
By Derek D’Auria
Published in The Beacon on March 10, 2017.