Grow North Annual Meeting Updates

In Annual Meeting, News, VCEDC by Isaac Doud0 Comments

Subcommittee Updates 2017

These updates were compiled from our annual meeting. These updates will also be reflected on their respective pages under our initiatives.

Forest Products Industry Initiative Update

Goal: Promote the Wood Products Industry and facilitate the workforce and resources needed for the Forest Products Industry to grow

· Hosted Tools to Retain and Grow your Forest Industry Companies workshop 1/9/17 at the Northcentral Technical College Wood Technology Center of Excellence in Antigo to educate regional Economic Development professionals and others about the value of the industry, the equipment, the process and what to look for to trigger bringing in outside resources to assist a business. The group toured Kretz Lumber and discussed industry road blocks and issues with Mill Manager Troy Brown.

· Partnered with NTC to offer a week long summer course titled “Introduction to the Forest Products Industry” for high school technical education and other teachers to learn about the industry, processes, markets and career opportunities they can share with their students. Participants will tour several manufacturers. Grow North is providing 16 -$526 tuition scholarships as well as a $100 travel stipend for each teacher.

· Promoting the industry via a new Forest Products Industry sign for the Rhinelander airport and a brochure rack piece designed by Visions Northwest will be distributed.

· Partnering with Nicolet College to develop and conduct a “Heavy Equipment Operator Class” (logging and road emphasis) this fall to help grow the regional workforce.

· Joined with Visions Northwest to form a Wood Industry Collaborative to facilitate a new Wood Industry Conference and a “Wood is Good” marketing campaign.

Submitted 5/12/17 by Wendy Gehlhoff – Forestry Committee Chair

Workforce Development Initiative Update

To date, the Grow North Workforce Sub Committee has done an analysis of the population metrics and K-12 enrollment net gain or loss for our school districts over the last 10 years. Currently, we are assisting Ascension Medical Group on a Fast Forward Grant to create a new competency- based certificate and program with Nicolet College for Certified Medical Assistant that will allow a new career path in healthcare for people in our communities and greater healthcare to be administered to our residents by our regional healthcare partners.

Also, Grow North has taken over leadership of the Northwoods Innovation Group, a newly-created sector partnership with Nicolet College and representatives from manufacturing leadership in the Northwoods to create new partnerships and programs between our regional K-12s, Nicolet College, and local business and industry to create new and innovative career paths to address the continued workforce shortage in the Northwoods.

The Workforce Subcommittee has also developed a relationship with Lab Midwest, which may offer new opportunities to enhance Northwoods Fab Labs in future years and drive innovation and entrepreneurship.

Submitted 5/17/17 by Derek Heikkinen – Workforce Committee Chair & Business Director/North Central Wisconsin Workforce Development Board

Marketing and Public Relations

Goal: Increase exposure to online marketing and public relations opportunities via website and social media, as well as via flyers and publications that can be linked to the website for downloading and printing, as needed.

Action: Implement media development strategies that will improve an awareness of Grow North’s initiatives and plans.

Plan: Redesign and enhance current online marketing and public relations platforms to provide an online presence that houses information pertaining to current initiatives, activities, upcoming events, new releases, etc.

· Research websites from other economic development entities to see how their sites are structured

· Meet with IT professionals to determine costs to enhance the current Grow North website

· Launch new website, as well as create social media presence via Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Entrepreneurship Initiative Update

Goal: Attract, develop, and grow new and existing businesses in the Grow North region.

Action: Create opportunities for entrepreneurs to develop skills and receive support when launching businesses.

Plan: Secure grant funding and scholarships to offset costs for entrepreneurship training, offer courses specific to the needs of entrepreneurs in the Grow North region, and provide ongoing support for new business start-ups.

· Offer entrepreneurship courses/training (53 graduates to date; 26 either started or expanded their businesses)

· Expand entrepreneurship training options to address the needs of individuals with disabilities.

· Provide support and business space for start-up companies through placement of incubators (10 businesses currently in place; 2 additional businesses are looking to move in).

Broadband Initiative Update

Goal: To have affordable reliable and high speed broadband for the residents, businesses and students of the Grow North Region

Questions to legislators: How does Assembly Bill 123 affect affordability for residents and how does it help the education of students?

Q: High speed, affordable broadband continues to be a critical concern among rural residents of the Grow North region. AB 123 was introduced and passed in the Assembly. The Senate will be acting on a similar bill. What is your best estimate of when the WI PSC application process will be announced? Why were the School funds added to the bill? Can the funds be used for providing students in rural areas with broadband?

· Florence County: The Florence County Broadband Committee is working with the three townships in our County that are underserved or unserved on a proposal for the next round of PSC grants. Three tower locations are being consider and a request for proposal went out to three potential providers. It appears there is one provider willing to partner with us on a grant application to bring service to these three areas: Northwoods Connect. $35,000 in matching grant dollars have been secured. Florence County is waiting to see the final project proposal to determine how much grant money they will provide to reach the 50/50 match goal.

· Langlade County: Langlade County Board of Directors, Langlade County Economic Development Corporation, and area entities have written letters of support for a local private provider which in return they have been able to obtain $312,000 in grant monies from the Public Service Commission that has allowed expansion of service to underserved customers of approximately 100 people to date. A County-Wide Broadband Committee is currently being formed and housed under the Langlade County Economic Development Corporation to look at long range goals.

· Lincoln County: County’s Administrative and Legislative Committee recently voted to hold off on any County involvement in Broadband until the CAF II process has run its course. Efforts are now underway to form a Broadband Committee under the auspices of LCEDC.

· Oneida County: OCEDC’s volunteer broadband committee along with our service partner, Northwoods Connect, applied for and received in 2016 a Wisconsin Public Service Commission Broadband Grant in the amount of $180,566. The Committee, chaired by Dave Noel of Sugar Camp, raised $222,236 in cash and in-kind contributions as a match to the PSC funds. To date they have received a total of over $250,000 from the PSC and raised over $320,000 in matching funds at the local level. Later this summer Northwoods Connect will have thirteen operating locations from which residents and businesses will be able to access high-speed fixed wireless broadband at an affordable rate.

· Vilas County: The VCEDC Broadband Committee has played a key role in helping to fill the voids where broadband service is needed Vilas County. Private providers have been able to obtain $599,767 in grant monies from the Public Service Commission that has allowed expansion of service in formerly unserved or underserved areas of Vilas County. We currently estimate the County to have 65-70% coverage. Our goal remains to have 85 – 90% coverage of Vilas County with affordable and reliable broadband service.

Submitted 5/19/17 by Chris Stark – Community Resource Educator, UW-Extension Vilas County

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