Agriculture Plays Integral Role in Kewaunee's Economy

Posted on Jun 1, 2011 :: Development
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Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

Agriculture – particularly the dairy industry – is driving growth in Kewaunee County.
In Wisconsin, Kewaunee County ranks second in milk production, only trailing Marathon County, which is the state’s largest county in land area.

“Agriculture is a real economic driver in Kewaunee County,” says Jennifer Brown, executive director of the Kewaunee County Economic Development Corp. “But it’s not the old-time farming people think about. Farms are more efficient and more productive than ever.”

The county’s farms range in size from 30 cows to 4,200 cows.

“We have a diverse range of farms, but they are all family-owned. Our farmers have embraced technology to become some of the most progressive producers in the state, as well as the country,” says Kristy Pagel, regional sales manager for Diamond V and a member of the economic development corp’s ag committee. “I think people underestimate the amount of money agriculture brings into the local economy. We’re not only talking about the farmers themselves, but all of the other industries that feed into agriculture.”

Kewaunee County’s ag industry registers a $487 million annual economic impact, with dairy leading the way, Pagel says. Many industries benefit, including agronomy, veterinary services, machinery equipment dealers, feed mills and specialized industry consultants, such as bankers or attorneys who only work with ag deals.

Kewaunee County is also home to two biodigesters, which take manure and turn it into fuel. “Our biodigesters produce enough electricity to power 8,000 homes, which is pretty much the entire county,” Pagel says.

Brown says energy produced on county farms through the use of biodigesters is the county’s third largest ag product. “It’s amazing what we’re doing” throughout the county, she says.
The county’s agricultural tradition carries over to its new marketing brand. While some economic development groups may create an “abstract” brand or logo, that’s not the case in Kewaunee. The new Kewaunee County Economic Development Corp. “Everything Grows Better Here” encompasses exactly what officials had in mind.

“It conveys our strong agricultural industry and heritage, along with reminding people that we have several companies that were started here by local folks and now are large, well known employers, like WS Packaging,” Brown says.

It took nearly a year for the economic development corporation to pull the new brand together as they held focus groups, met with local business and community officials.

The brand was officially unveiled last fall and Brown is now working with local chambers, communities and businesses to incorporate the brand in their own collateral pieces.
“Our goal was to create a singular, compelling identity for economic development in Kewaunee County. The brand helps us get that across – not only will your business grow well here, but so will your quality of life. This is a wonderful place to live and we want people to know that,” Brown says.