As a retired Kimberly-Clark vice president and a member of several corporate boards – from Revlon and SuperValu to Appleton Papers and Eli Lilly – Fortune Magazine once named Kathi Seifert one of the “Most Powerful Women in Business.” The co-chair of New North, Inc. sat down with Insight Editor Margaret LeBrun to talk about accomplishments and goals of the regional economic development organization.
I’ve been fortunate to be part of the New North organization, which was launched about eight years ago and is committed to fostering collaboration around economic development. We’re encouraging businesses to work together with chamber organizations, educational organizations under NEWERA (Northeast Wisconsin Educational Resource Alliance), workforce development organizations and others to help drive job growth.
I became part of New North before I retired from Kimberly-Clark and I’ve continued to serve as a co-chair for the New North organization, along with Bob DeKoch, who is president and chief operating officer of (Boldt) construction company.
Protecting the jobs that we have here in our region and creating additional job opportunities is so important for the economic vitality of our region. We are fortunate that we’ve got companies that are respected around the world. We need to help support these companies so that they will continue to provide employment for people throughout Northeastern Wisconsin and beyond.
The values that our employees have here are outstanding – the work ethic, the commitment to do their best, the creative ideas, the engineering that is so strong here in the region. Some terrific alliances have been created within the region to bring like-minded companies together. There is a manufacturing alliance, a marine cluster, health care alliances, the wind alliance and others that collaborate with each other so that best practices and an understanding of future trends and opportunities can be shared.
There’s also an interesting connection between our nonprofit organizations and the economy. The arts contribute to economic development because they draw people to our region.
When people come here to our region they are always impressed. Pierce, for example, brings people from all over the world to look at fire trucks and fire apparatus equipment. They are bringing people here who may consider the New North as a place to live, work or start their business.
Many business leaders are still looking for a highly skilled workforce. We are encouraging companies to articulate their needs so the educational institutions in the region can make sure they are providing the curriculum that will help fill some of those unmet needs.
I encourage people to attend the New North Summit (Dec. 7 in Appleton) and read our mid-year or year-end report. We are pursuing several key priority initiatives, all focused on job growth: targeting growth opportunities, entrepreneurism, education, attracting and retaining talent and, of course, branding. I would invite anyone interested in serving on one of the committees to let us know. There is wonderful work going on behind the scenes, all focused on helping to drive job growth.
We work very closely with the state of Wisconsin to make sure that when any company is looking to grow or considering the state of Wisconsin, that we have a process in place where Jerry Murphy, our executive director, works with economic development professionals through NEWREP (Northeast Wisconsin Regional Economic Partnership) to show customers facilities that are available that might best fit their needs.
We have recently completed a site-selector collateral piece that showcases why companies should consider moving to the region. The more we can all do to promote the New North beyond our borders will only benefit all of us from a job creation standpoint. It’s a region we all feel very strongly about. It’s north of what you expect.