Grow North Hosts Legislator Listening Session in Three Lakes
Wisconsin State Senator Tom Tiffany and State Representative Jeff Mursau answered questions on the region’s priorities for economic development, workforce development, Fab Labs, wood products and policy issues.
Representatives from U.S. Senator Ron Johnson’s office, U.S. Representative Sean Duffy and Governor Scott Walker’s office also attended.
Over 50 people attended the Grow North Regional Economic Development Corporation Legislative Panel on Monday, May 23, 2017, at the Three Lakes Center for the Arts, sponsored by AT&T. Wisconsin State Senator Tom Tiffany and State Representative Jeff Mursau answered questions on the regions’ priorities for economic development, workforce development, Fab Labs, wood products and policy issues. Representatives from U.S. Senator Ron Johnson’s office, U.S. Representative Sean Duffy and Governor Scott Walker’s office also attended.
Grow North has undertaken four initiatives for the region:
- Broadband Expansion,
- Increasing Entrepreneurship,
- Promoting the forest products industry and
- Workforce Development.
The legislators addressed a number of issues relating to these initiatives during the panel.
Senator Tiffany said he and other legislators are working hard to help rural schools, and was understanding that small districts face additional problems that other districts might not encounter. He acknowledged that high quality education is necessary to workforce development.
“We are urging the Department of Instruction to be more flexible in terms of qualifications for teachers, in terms of being able to deliver content to the schools,” Senator Tiffany said. “Not lifting the teaching requirements that teachers have, but if you have someone who has private sector experience and they don’t necessarily have the teaching certificate for something like a Fab Lab, but they have the technical expertise; free them to be able to fulfill that teaching role. That’s one thing we’re looking at to give schools more flexibility, especially small schools who might not be able to hire someone full time in a teaching position.”
The legislators were also asked a question about the Nursing Assistant Program open to middle and high school students, and were asked about the provision limiting to only students 16 years and older. Both Representative Mursau and Senator Tiffany said they weren’t aware of the provision and each said they would investigate the issue further when they returned to Madison.
“This is how we find out things that don’t work in government,” Senator Tiffany said. “When people bring issues like this that we don’t know about, we really appreciate that and we hope we can put something in place to fix it,” Senator Tiffany said.
The legislators also discussed the increased funding in Governor Walker’s budget for rural broadband expansion. Las year the broadband expansion grants totaled $1 million, and the new budget request is to increase that to $15 million. Senator Tiffany told attendees to get their broadband expansion plans in order to apply for the expanded grant program.
Senator Tiffany also explained the desire to change some practices and increase the number of forest products in the region. He referenced a study funded in the 2013 budget which evaluated the impediments to harvesting the full value in the forests. Senator Tiffany said by extrapolating the data from the study, the state lost almost $30 million in 20 years. He said by changing some practices, the industry could increase the amount of money generated in the forests and still practice environmentally sound harvesting.
Representative Mursau also spoke about the harvesting on national forests opening with the Good Neighbor Authority (GNA) program, which started in 2014. There are 1.5 million acres of forest land in the Chequamegon-Nicolet Forest, and timber harvests have been stagnant for the past 20 years.
“Wisconsin is in a critical position,” Representative Mursau said. “The forest industry infrastructure out west is gone and it could take up to 10 years to build it back up. We still have our mills here in Wisconsin, and the rest of the country is looking to our state to see how we will handle the Good Neighbor Authority.”
Senator Tiffany said there were increased funds for the GNA in the state budget, but that the state still has a long way to go. He also stressed the need for balance in harvesting the forests of northern Wisconsin.
The Legislative Panel was moderated by Robyn Gruner, Director, External Affairs, AT&T Wisconsin.
After the panel, Grow North President, Collette Sorgel thanked everyone for coming to the event and said it was a great opportunity for everyone to get information to and from the legislators. The attendees were then able to mingle with the legislators and the representatives and voice any other concerns not covered in the panel.
Grow North Elects New Officers
The Grow North Board of Directors elected new leadership at a meeting held following the panel.
Vicky Oldham was elected President, Derek Heikkinen as Vice President, Roger Luce as Treasurer, and Lisa Sage as Secretary.
EDC Representatives: Wendy Gehlhoff, Florence County; Mark Ferris, Forest County; Angie Close, Langlade County; Ken Maule, Lincoln County; Open Seat, Marinette County; Paul Ehrfurth, Oconto County; Roger Luce, Oneida County; Bob Egan, Vilas County.
Tribal Representatives: Melissa Doud, Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians; Cara Kulhanek, Forest County Potawatomi; Open Seat, Sokaogon Chippewa Community.
At-Large Representatives: Sandy Bishop, Nicolet College; Troy Brown, Kretz Lumber Co.; Ben Niehaus, K-12 Representative; Carolyn Ritter, Vilas County Board; Leah Van Zile, Wisconsin Public Service.
Board terms are effective July 1, 2017, through June 30, 2018.
For more information about Grow North Regional Economic Development Corporation, visit www.grownorth.biz.
July 7th Meeting
The next Grow North Executive Committee and Board of Directors meeting will be held on Friday, July 7th at Nicolet College in Rhinelander. Visit our website for all the details.
Visit our New Website!
We have a newly designed website – and a new website address – www.grownorth.biz.
Visit our website today to learn about our core initiatives, our future meeting dates, minutes of previous meetings, and details on becoming a Member.
Bright Future for the Paper Industry
One of our core initiatives is promoting the hardwood products industry. The future of hardwood products and the paper industry looks bright.
There are changes in the industry. In 2015, the worldwide demand for graphic paper declined for the first time, but the paper and forest-products industry is still growing, and other products are filling the gap left by the shrinking graphic-paper market. Packaging is growing all over the world, along with tissue papers and pulp for hygiene products.
Read the full article. These changes in the industry are the way of the future and research being done in our state is leading the charge.
CWIMMA Awards Ceremony
Grow North Vice-President Derek Heikkinen attended the CWIMMA 6th Annual High School Welding Competition Awards Awards Ceremony and Dinner. 13 area school districts were involved in the welding competition.
The Central Wisconsin Metal Manufacturers Alliance (CWIMMA) is a voluntary organization of manufacturers in welding, machining, fabrication and other advanced metal manufacturing industries dedicated to promoting education and career opportunities in the welding, fabricating and machining trades.
“The single largest challenge that fabricating and machining companies in Central Wisconsin face in growing their business is an on-going and projected lack of available skilled Welders and Machinists. CWIMMA is an action based alliance of manufacturers whose sole purpose is to assist in actively building a robust pipeline of people with these skills,” Jim McIntyre, CEO of the Greenheck Group, said.
CWIMMA has worked to expose students to the opportunities available in welding and manufacturing through a number of programs, including the Heavy Metal Tour, exposing 8th grade students to innovative careers in manufacturing. 13,750 students from 41 schools and over 80 companies and 3 technical colleges have participated in the past five years.
Florence High School Technology Fair
Grow North board members Wendy Gehlhoff and Don Sidlowski attended the 2nd Annual Florence High School Technology Fair last month.
The general public, parents and students attended the fair to learn more about how the Florence School District is partnering with industry to prepare students for the high-demand STEAM jobs that are available at area businesses.
STEAM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math. STEAM curriculum is being integrated throughout the 7th through 12th grades, with plans to expand into the elementary grades in the future. The technology fair gave students the chance to interact with area businesses in order to make more informed decisions for their future careers and what high school coursework is needed to reach their goals.
Engaging with students is how we’re building our foundation to create a trained workforce in Wisconsin and in our region. Thanks to Wendy and Don for attending the Fair!