September 5, 2018 |

The Kewaunee County Economic Development Corporation, in partnership with Kewaunee County, hosted four business community roundtables in June and July this year, as part of the process to develop a new KCEDC strategic plan for the future. Facilitated by Rob Burke, UW-Extension Area Director, each roundtable was attended by business leaders, retail owners, local government officials and other stakeholders. The meetings were held in Algoma, Kewaunee and Luxemburg.

The intention of the roundtables was to gather ideas and business priorities for a revitalized economic development effort. This will help generate an economic development high-priority focus list for the short-term and long-term. These priorities ought to be tangible, strategic, and fill urgent needs to drive economic development. At each roundtable, Burke asked the attendees to identify the advantages and positive factors related to starting, maintaining or expanding a business in Kewaunee County as well as the issues or concerns businesses might have.

Participants were then asked to discuss what the top priorities for KCEDC should be as it moves forward in the next five years and then to identify the things that KCEDC should avoid doing.

Rob Burke spoke about the process and summarized the feedback and main points discussed in a report he prepared for the KCEDC Board meeting August 23, 2018. The top advantages highlighted included the sense of community; affordability; natural scenery, beaches and lakefront, rivers, trails, and walkable communities. The main issues or concerns include broadband infrastructure, the need for additional housing, workforce attraction, and transportation issues. The top priorities for KCEDC and the new Executive Director include the following:

  • Improvement of broadband infrastructure
  • Extensive communication, coordination and collaboration with local businesses and business organizations on a regular basis, especially through direct personal contact and discussions
  • KCEDC should function as the one, key, “go-to” person/agency for county economic development information and assistance, a “one-stop-shop” for information, direction, and direct assistance to starting, expanding and retaining business in Kewaunee County
  • Serve as the primary coalition-builder, promoting collaboration among countywide organizations.
  • KCEDC must focus on the top, big picture priorities.
  • They must focus fundraising on gathering support from the local business community and “belong to the business community”.
  • KCEDC should avoid activities that fall under the purview of the chambers of commerce.

Burke then recommended the next steps and decisions for KCEDC to make. The first step is to hire a new executive director or name an interim director as most future activities, initiatives, and progress hinges on this. He recommended funding the KCEDC adequately, ensuring it is not structured so the main activity of the staff/director has to be raising money for operations or their own salary. Finally, KCEDC must focus and narrow the top priorities to a manageable level and pursue them. To that end, the organization will create an action plan, with 5-10 specific goals for the incoming executive director to accomplish. Rob Burke stated that roundtable discussion notes are useful as a basis, but even more stakeholders need to be involved in a compact, but intensive process of goal setting.

Above: Algoma Roundtable meeting held June 27 at the Algoma Chamber offices, was the first of four Roundtables held in three locations around the county through July 2018. Attendees included left to right around the table: Shawn Olson (partial image), Jeff Kleiman, Ryan Hoffmann, Virginia Haske, Jan Dart, Kim Larson, Gary Paape, Tracy Nelson, Sara Krouse, Rob Burke (Moderator), Robyn Harper (not shown/photographer), and Linda Teske.