Cecilia Harry recently stepped into the role of president and CEO of Envision Greater Fond du Lac, an organization that formed out of a merger of the chamber of commerce and economic development organization. Harry, who moved to Fond du Lac County from Nebraska, talked with Insight staff reporter Jessica Thiel about why it’s important to see a community with fresh eyes.
Really, the most important thing right now is learning, absorbing. I am making 90 one-on-one visits with business and community leaders across the county in my first 90 days. It’s so important that I’m setting the tone right away that I am an outward-facing leader who is going to be connected and engaged with the community.
I am a big believer in regionalism. Fond du Lac County is not a self-contained economy. People and products come in and out of Fond du Lac County all the time, and so it’s important to understand how we tie into that larger economy. There’s no question that the I-41 corridor is an asset, not only for Fond du Lac County but for that regional economy going north from here and down into Milwaukee.
It’s very important to understand how we tie into that bigger economy and then how we can support the other communities within that economy, how we can work together on efforts like talent attraction and talent retention so that we’re not all using more resources on a localized level when we could be pooling resources and making a difference for our communities on a regional level.
It’s important that we demonstrate our ability to collaborate, our ability to listen, but also our ability to be a catalyst. We want to be that organization that plans for and anticipates those opportunities and that has the expertise, capacity and resources to bring those opportunities to fruition for Fond du Lac County.
The world is changing at a rapid pace, and I’m seeing that the communities that are best positioning themselves to embrace growth and success from that economic perspective are thinking ahead. They’re saying, “What is the world going to look like 20 years from now, and what are we doing today to prepare for what the world is going to look like?”
I think part of the scenario for what we will look like in 20 years, hopefully, is that Foxconn will be located not too far away in southern Wisconsin. The thought there is that Foxconn is going to be a thriving employer changing everything for the state of Wisconsin, so how do we navigate the obstacles and capitalize on the opportunities?
So, with the obstacles, there’s going to be a workforce piece to that equation. We as Fond du Lac County will have resources to navigate that obstacle if we’re anticipating it now as opposed to anticipating it after our employers start feeling the pinch of the already-tight labor market getting even tighter.
Foxconn is anticipating about $4 billion annually in supply chain needs, and … about $1.4 billion is expected to be for Wisconsin-based firms. Now is the time to for us in Fond du Lac County to say, “We want our share of that $1.4 billion,” and looking at what it’s going to take to help existing employers tap in as part of the supply chain and how we can attract new employers that will be a part of that supply chain.
I think it’s important for fresh eyes to come into a community and share why there are great things going on. I see one of my tasks in Fond du Lac County is to share my excitement about why we thought this was a good move for our family and why we left a wonderful community to come to this community.
By November timeframe, we’ll be able to share publicly that succinct mission statement of who we are, who we’re going to be in the greater community, and then we’ll take the better part of 2018 engaging the business community and a lot of our different committees and divisions in aligning under that new organizational mission.