WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT, A year ago, that the two largest Chambers of Commerce in the New North would be led by two strong, dynamic women? Not that there’s anything unusual about that. But when two organizations with a history of tradition change things up in a similar way in the same year, it makes you wonder what’s next.
Laurie Radke, our cover subject, recently stepped into the top role at the Green Bay Area Chamber of Commerce. Her background is in corporate training and economic development at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College. Shannon Full (Shannon Meyer until she recently married), landed at the Fox Cities Chamber in January after a series of leadership positions with chambers nationwide, most recently, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
We featured Full earlier this year in a “Face Time” interview, and since then businesspeople in the Fox Cities have been pleasantly surprised by her bold but thoughtful – OK, refreshing – approach. For this issue, News Editor MaryBeth Matzek spent some time with Radke, who was still in listening mode before mapping out changes (see “Taking the Lead in Titletown,” page 26). I enjoyed the opportunity to spend some time with Radke during the photo shoot, and learned that she and her family keep a hobby farm just north of Green Bay, where they raise a few animals and live out a dream.
At the chamber, expect her to be especially knowledgeable about the development and training needs of business. Radke was still getting up to speed about all the offerings at her new gig, but given that many of them are housed on the campus of NWTC, it shouldn’t take her long. One of the public-private offerings is the business incubator called Advance, which recently changed its name to the Advance Business & Manufacturing Center. Apparently, a lot of people were not aware that Advance also is a resource for manufacturers; see page 30 to learn more.
Unless your company is a manufacturer, you also may not know that we at Insight Publications publish a quarterly magazine geared specifically for manufacturers in the New North region. Insight on Manufacturing is about to begin its fifth year in print. Developed to help meet a need identified to us by leaders of the NEW Manufacturing Alliance, IOM, as we call it, came on to the scene as many of us realized – despite an enormous loss of industry jobs in the last decade or so – that manufacturing is still a powerhouse here.
Did you know that Wisconsin ranks among the top two states (tied with Indiana) for manufacturing as a percentage of overall employment, at 15.4 percent? In the New North, the concentration of manufacturing jobs is even higher: about 20 percent of jobs here are in manufacturing. See “Keeping up the Pace,” page 36. This was top of mind for us as we worked with First Business Bank and the NEW Manufacturing Alliance to plan the recent Manufacturing First Conference & Expo at the KI Center in Green Bay. At press time, more than 400 were registered to attend.
We have no doubt that our region’s strong technical colleges play a strong role in manufacturing employment. Our adult workforce has nearly twice the share of workers with vocational associate degrees than their counterparts nationwide, according to the Center on Wisconsin Strategy, a nonprofit think-tank based at UW-Madison. We’re lucky that our technical colleges are also attuned to the needs of small businesses and entrepreneurs, as Radke will attest.
Also on top of this issue is Amy Pietsch, director of the Venture Center at Fox Valley Technical College. The New North Small Business & Entrepreneur Committee, which she chairs, is in the thick of an exciting initiative designed to identify and fast-track the “gazelles” among young and startup businesses in the region. Check out the “Face Time” interview with Pietsch.
Coming up this month is a great event for businesspeople to network: The Entrepreneur’s Connection at UW-Fond du Lac on Nov. 15. Go to econnectevent.com to find out more. I hope to see you there!