Collaboration continues to drive economic, education and community successes across the 18-county region of the New North. That was the message shared with more than 800 attendees at the New North Economic Summit held in December at the KI Center in Green Bay.
New North, Inc., a collaborative effort among business and community leaders to promote cooperation and economic development in Northeast Wisconsin, was created in 2004 after an economic opportunity study revealed cracks in the area’s economic engine. Leaders from the 18 participating counties came together to develop a strategic plan outlining initiatives to strengthen the economy.
Five years later, the New North is the model for other regional economic organizations across Wisconsin and the Midwest, said David Ward, an economist with NorthStar Economics of Madison and the author of the study that led to the New North’s creation and a recent study looking at the current state of the New North and its future.
“One thing came out loud and clear: manufacturing remains a key economic engine for the New North and Wisconsin,” Ward said. “It’s not going to be the manufacturing we may be used to – it will be high-tech and focused on sectors that we weren’t thinking about five years ago, such as wind energy and cellulosic fuel.”
Ward, who served as the keynote speaker for the New North summit, said everyone will need to adjust to the “new normal,” which presents opportunities for the region in waste transformation and technology, higher education and international direct investment. The New North has already experienced that last opportunity when Enzymatic Therapy, which is owned by a German company, announced plans to consolidate operations and manufacture products in Green Bay, creating more than 100 jobs.
“We in the New North are positioned for the next recovery. Those with a good plan – and you’re one of them – will prosper,” Ward said.
New North Co-Chair Kathi Seifert said the summit is a way to celebrate success while calling attention to issues that still need work. “This is definitely a time to renew our commitment to collaborate together,” said the retired Kimberly-Clark executive. “We know it’s a tough time, but we can move forward if we work together.”
Collaboration was a key theme of the summit, which focused on the New North’s key initiatives and the progresses made during the past year, including the growing focus on green energy production and the associated supply chains.
Gov. Jim Doyle, who has attended every New North summit, praised work being done on the creation of Wisconsin Wind Works, which put together a directory listing businesses throughout the New North and Wisconsin involved in wind energy. The state rewarded New North’s green energy efforts with a $100,000 marketing grant for 2010.
While Doyle acknowledged times are tough, he praised the commitment of New North businesses and organizations to work together. “You did the hard work of coming together and developing a plan before the bad times hit and you’ve been able to persevere and sustain yourselves while even inching forward in these difficult times,” he said.
Doyle drew attention to the collaborative work being done among the region’s universities and technical colleges to increase the region’s educational offerings. Before the New North was created, the region did not have an engineering program. Today, partnerships among schools in and out of the New North have led to the creation of two engineering programs.
“We are also seeing more students than ever before in college in Wisconsin, which is essential in helping our state compete on the global economic stage,” Doyle said. “Economic development all comes down to a strong education system and your commitment to that in the New North is why I hold you up as a model of success to other economic regions in Wisconsin and the Midwest.”