The New North is roughly five years old, and the joy of having a fifth birthday is that you’ve arrived at an organizational developmental stage where you’re no longer in startup mode, you are suddenly capable of executing on a lot of tactical strategies. We’ve demonstrated this regional concept has merit, has value, that it has outcomes, it has capacity that heretofore may have been dormant in the region.
The next five years will be the test of how well the foundation was built. I believe the foundation of collaboration is really very sound. It requires some passion. It also requires some mutual benefit and a common vision. The next five years are really the work of exercising the foundation that we built.
Last year, for example, New North participated in two trade events, both of which we organized, both of which involved dozens of businesses, around the industry cluster called Wisconsin Wind Works. We can rinse and repeat that capacity now that we’ve got it, within the world of biofuels, agriculture innovation, avionics, data centers – those are important, logical target industries for us to organize and then pursue.
New North started as this concept that a regional organization could leverage the collective total of all the region’s assets for the purpose of developing the economy. That involves leveraging the collaborations that are on the landscape already, like NEW REP (Regional Economic Partnership), NEW ERA (Educational Resource Alliance), the Northeast Wisconsin Chambers Coalition and others.
It took two years, roughly, to build a prospect protocol that incorporated systems that would accelerate and build greater value around the collaboration of responding to a request from a customer interested in investing in a plant or office that would result in investment. Such investment would lead to job generation, an increased tax base or occupancy of vacant industrial space.
Prolamina came to New North through Forward Wisconsin. It involved a site request, due diligence around workforce dimensions, infrastructure alignment around transportation needs and logistics and proximity to a broad range of suppliers and vendors.
The response involved very specific reactions to Prolamina’s real estate needs, at a minimum involving 11 communities and a number of realtors and developers. The company boiled that down to nine. New North and our partners basically teamed up to put on the best view of what the real estate offered and what the host community offered. The nine became three, the three ultimately became one: the former Kimberly-Clark diaper plant in the Town of Menasha. It involved a realtor-broker, a developer, a property owner, a municipality, economic development resources, the state of Wisconsin’s Department of Commerce, Fox Valley Technical College and the Fox Valley Workforce Development Board. Systems allow you to respond to a customer effectively and efficiently.
What’s nice about this particular project is the Prolamina team had specifically identified the New North region – and they named that as the location they were interested in. So from a branding perspective, this is a win. From a collaboration standpoint in terms of practical application, this is a great win. In terms of our ability to exercise a system and essentially demonstrate that this prospect protocol works, it’s a great win.
New North is an organization that’s specifically designed to identify places where people can collaborate. There’s this recognition that adding up the increments of what we are is significantly more powerful than any one individual company, municipality or government going it alone. And in this economy, the work is even more important than when it was originally conceived.