Listening to the talk at the New North Summit last month in Oshkosh, it was a bit hard to tell if it was a business or sporting event. There was a fight song, cheerleaders, ballpark snacks and plenty of positive talk about what it takes to field a team of winners, whether it’s for the football team or an organization’s office.
That was the idea New North, Inc. Executive Director Jerry Murphy was looking for when he worked with New North Co-Chairs Bob DeKoch and Kathi Seifert on putting together the seventh annual summit, which was held Dec. 3 at the Kolf Sports Center on the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh campus.
“It’s all about competing to win, both as a region and as a business,” Murphy says. “What do we need to set ourselves apart and succeed?”
The New North, an 18-county organization designed to promote cooperation and economic development, uses its six strategic initiatives to help guide growth and development and bring organizations across the spectrum together. For example, an initiative around education brings together schools, post-secondary institutions and businesses. “Working together, we can achieve a better trained workforce, which is good not only for our businesses, but also our community,” says Seifert, a retired vice president with Kimberly-Clark Corp.
The summit’s keynote speaker, Packers President Mark Murphy, shared how leadership styles transcend from his office to the playing field. “I’ve found that what makes you successful on the playing field can make you successful in business, too. We need to work together, be open to new ideas and transcend differences.”
Those ideas were also echoed in an address by governor-elect Scott Walker, who promised Wisconsin was once again “open for business” and that he planned to lower taxes for small businesses, remove regulatory barriers that make it difficult for businesses to expand and keep funds going to organizations like New North, which bring public and private entities together to expand the state’s economy. “We need to make Wisconsin a welcoming place for businesses.”
The summit drew attention to the different ways businesses and organizations are working together across the region. For example, Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, Lakeshore Technical College and UW-Marinette are working with Marinette Marine and other shipbuilders to develop a curriculum to provide the right training for workers in this growing industry. The creation of a marine cluster – which includes suppliers and subcontractors to the shipbuilding industry – are designed to help strengthen the industry, much like the way a supply chain directory helped Wisconsin Wind Works gain traction and draw attention to the wind industry’s presence in the state.
“It takes time to develop strong networks like Wisconsin Wind Works, but it’s something we’re trying to do in other industries,” Murphy says. “There’s a lot we can do to strengthen the area’s overall economy.”
By having businesses work together, DeKoch, president and chief operating officer for the Boldt Co. in Appleton, says he believes the New North’s economy will continue to grow. “I really believe in the efforts and activities we’re doing here in the New North and I’m asking for everyone else to also believe,” he said before leading the crowd of more than 700 business, education, organization and community leaders in a chant of “I believe.”
“When we work together, we can do anything,” DeKoch says