Collaboration is a major factor in driving economic development forward in the greater Green Bay area — that was the theme Tuesday at the Greater Green Bay Chamber’s Economic Development Strategic Plan event.
“All of us are in this together,” said Brown County Executive Tony Streckenbach. “Municipalities are collaborating with each other, businesses are collaborating with each other and their communities … when we work together, we are more successful.”
The event, held at the Radisson Hotel & Conference Center in Green Bay, updated business, government and community leaders on the progress being made on seven task forces — business development; talent and education; downtown and urban development; alignment and conferences; diversity and inclusiveness; transportation and connectivity; and innovation. Community volunteers lead each task force.
Art — and its importance — was also an underlying theme of the event, with singing and dancing from members of the Oneida Tribe, a video showcasing the area’s many murals and Water and Flow, a special art installation on display from Fab Collab. Each table also had crayons, markers and brown paper for attendees to draw on.
“Art is such a vibrant piece of the community. Art and culture are also an important part of attracting and retaining workers,” said Kelly Armstrong, vice president of economic development at the Greater Green Bay Chamber. “We want to create a complete canvas and get everyone involved in economic development and growth.”
Just as businesses need to collaborate, so do the programs in place to help entrepreneurs and startups, said Craig Dickman, managing director of TitletownTech and a leader of the innovation task force. He said TitletownTech has been in contact with 550 entrepreneurs and early-stage businesses since opening earlier this year, but that’s just one part of the equation.
“We’re working together with the Startup Hub and the Urban Hub. It needs to be a community effort to inspire and motivate the entrepreneurs and startups as they move forward,” Dickman said.
Robyn Davis, executive director of the Brown County United Way and a leader of the diversity task force, shared that 78 CEOs of companies with operations in Wisconsin signed on to the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion Pledge in 2019, up from the 48 who signed on during 2018.
Next April, the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center will host the Together One Wisconsin Conference: A Conference on Building Communities of Equity and Opportunity. Davis said the opportunity to host the event — it was in Milwaukee last year — shows that the conference organizers “recognize that we’re taking diversity seriously in the Green Bay area.”
Events such as the Together One Wisconsin Conference are a vital part of the local economic development picture since they pump millions into the greater Green Bay area, said Brad Toll, president of the Greater Green Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau. He shared more details about the new Brown County Expo Center that’s under construction at the site of the former Brown County Arena and Shopko Hall.
“We are already receiving interest in the facility and selling the place. When done, it will be the largest expo space in Northeast Wisconsin,” Toll said.
Streckenbach, who also leads the transportation task force, said collaboration and working together is paramount to getting large infrastructure projects complete.
“We have seven municipalities who have joined together on the need for the Southern Bridge Arterial Project around downtown De Pere. The state says it’s a priority project, but to get it done, we need to keep working together,” he said. “A project like this will be big for economic development.”