Marvelous things happen when the best business ideas are combined with community concerns.
Case in point: A decade ago, leadership at the Appleton and Neenah-Menasha YMCAs decided both could stand to gain if they combined forces.
They did, and the savings helped allow enough resources to build new facilities in Greenville and Kimberly. With a generous gift from a local family, in 2009 they were able to build another facility on the north side of Appleton. Today, membership of the Fox Cities YMCA is more than double than before the merger.
“It took a while to get the two YMCA organizations to merge, and when they did, I think it just blossomed in terms of utilizing resources efficiently to support the mission,” Doug Dieterich, president of Galloway Company, Neenah, and current YMCA of the Fox Cities board chairman, told Insight Associate Editor Nikki Kallio for this month’s cover story.
You’ll find the limber Y leadership team worked creatively together posing for photos in this issue (see page 26). On a day-to-day basis, they focus on three core areas: Youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. The Y helps businesses by offering ways to keep employees healthy and productive, says Fox Cities Y CEO Bill Breider. That investment has a payback, he points out.
“Every dollar spent incorporating a company wellness program will save $3.80 in future health care costs and $5.80 in reduction of absenteeism,” he says.
This fall, many employers will seek new ways to emphasize employee wellness as they anticipate compliance with the Affordable Care Act, according to our story on page 33, “Uncharted territory.” Those who don’t control high blood pressure, cholesterol, weight or stop smoking could be moved into health insurance plans with higher deductibles and higher costs. I think you’ll find the story by contributing writer Tom Groenfeldt enlightening, if not helpful, as your company explores what’s expected with the ACA.
Back to the topic of businesses collaborating with community efforts, did you know that Wisconsin’s technical college system was developed 100 years ago with the goal of training young people to meet the needs of local employers? Wisconsin was the first state in the nation to set up a technical college system, and the mission to match skilled workers with employers’ needs is as important today as it was then. For a glimpse at how far the four technical colleges in the New North region have come, see page 36.
Institutions of higher education in our region are continually finding ways to meet the needs of business. UW-Fox Valley, for example, recently opened its new Engineering Center next to the main building on Midway Road in Menasha. Many students in the program are already working in local companies. See “A home of its own” on page 42.
In our Face Time interview this month (page 19), Jeff Mirkes of Downtown Green Bay talks about how a leap of faith on the part of a couple large employers who have chosen to consolidate operations downtown – Schreiber Foods and Associated Bank – is changing the dynamics in Titletown, drawing creative small businesses and nonprofits alike.
Developing an environment for the creative class, including businesses and nonprofits involved in the arts, will be explored in the Wisconsin Downtown Action Council’s annual conference Oct. 8-9 in Appleton (see Connections, page 22). With the theme, “The Art of Downtown Development,” attendees will share ideas for making the heart of their cities as vibrant as they can be. That, says Amy Hansen, executive director of Downtown Fond du Lac Partnership and vice president of the Wisconsin Downtown Action Council, means sometimes “doing things that don’t always ‘make sense’ financially.”
Does that make sense? I know a lot of economic development pros who would say, “You bet it does.”
It’s one more example of how for-profit and non-profit interests go hand in hand, making our communities strong, healthy places where people want to work – and live.